Firefighting the Ethiopian Way

Video Shoot in the Headquarters of Addis Abeba's Fire Brigade
Feuerwehr Ausrüstung Addis Abeba
Feuerwehr Ausrüstung Addis Abeba

We’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while: shooting a video in the control center of Addis Abeba’s fire brigade. This is where all eight fire departments of Addis – a city with 4.5 million residents – are organized and coordinated.

The building is quite new, and so are the fire trucks. But the control center consists of only one table – and four phones. All emergency calls redirect here – from all of Addis.

Zwei Mitarbeiter*innen in der Notrufeentrale der Hauptfeuerwache
The control center

This lack of technical equipment, however, is not the only challenge. While Addis did name its streets some years ago, the names are not commonly used. This causes emergency calls to include directions such as “Take the roundabout at Leipzig Square (yes, it really does exist), take the exit in the direction of Adwa, then take a left past the blue fence and head down the road until you see a red building to your right – then you should already see the smoke”. With this in mind, we are not surprised that there is not a single map of the city to be found in the department. The firefighters are not too worried about it either.

Feuerwehrleute in der HAuptfeuerwache von Addis warten auf den nächsten Einsatz
Firefighters waiting for the next mission

They tell us that what really makes their job difficult is the lack of proper training. High-rise buildings are built just about everywhere in Addis – the classic turnable ladders don’t get you very far with these. But the firefighters do not have the necessary expertise in height rescue techniques. The same is true for tunnel rescue techniques or lifting technologies – expertise that is essential in reacting to emergencies in the city’s new metro system.

And this is where the partnership with the city of Leipzig comes in. The fire brigade of the German city has expertise the fire brigade of Addis is lacking. As part of the cities’ partnership, they offer trainings to their colleagues in Addis.

Feuerwehrmann Addis Abeba
A firefighter explains the equipment to us

Michael Sallat, a specialist for municipalities who supports the partnership of the two cities, is the person who organized this exchange of expertise. Excited, he tells us that the Addis firefighters follow the news from their colleagues in Leipzig – even when they’re on holiday! All that is left for him to do is to organize meetings between the two teams – everything else is running smoothly and independently.

After the interview, we are allowed to climb about the fire trucks. With a great lot of enthusiasm, people explain and demonstrate their equipment to us – this is going exactly as we hoped it would 🙂

Feuerwehrfahrzeug Addis Abeba
On the firetruck

By the way – in Addis, becoming a firefighter has long ceased to be primarily a little boys’ dream – more than a quarter of the firefighters are women. In this regard, Leipzig has some things to learn form its sister city.