Minister Jan Jambon
10 Nov 2018

Belgian minister Jan Jambon: "First Responders are now facing new types of risks and challenges like never before in history"


When Minister Jan Jambon, Belgian Minster for Security and the Interior, visited the CTIF Seminar "Fire, Rescue & New Challenges" on Saturday,  his speech was very much focused on Innovation, the challenges that come with them and what technological progress mean to the Fire & Rescue Services - for good or for bad.

"Dear Guests, Peter Jackson, the director of  “The Lord of the Rings” once said: Tomas Edison´s phonograph was once a “New Technology”. As always, some were afraid of this new technology.

Some were afraid of Television – they thought the radio waves would kill them.

Some were afraid of trains – they  thought traveling faster than 30 kmph would tear apart the human body.

The inventions of the Industrial age - electrical power, the combustion engine and Henry Ford´s invention of the assembly line -  all  brought wealth and a better life to millions and millions of people.

However – the New Technology around the turn of the last century also brought huge new challenges:

For firefighters and First Responders, New Technology have historically not only meant better rescue services, it also meant new types of accidents could occur:


  • Faster, more powerful cars meant more serious accidents
  • New factories being built meant larger fires and more dangerous to respond to
  •  The increasing use of chemicals meant new challenges for first responders in the field of Hazardous Materials.

This week - when firefighters just thought we started to get a handle on how to perform Extrication on Electrical vehicles - car manufacturers announce that they are introducing cars with solar panels on the roof – bringing yet new challenges to Extrication.

Will this Technological Development ever stop?

Of course it won´t.

In fact,  technology is changing faster than ever before!

And just like always:

 First Responders will be the ones standing on the front lines, without a rule book to follow – having only seconds to decide what to do.

Today, Fire & Rescue Services are facing challenges that were not there before, and that are completely new.

Because technology is currently changing so fast, it is not easy to get acquainted with all evolutions and novelties. That's why many interventions are different and complex, both for the volunteers and for the professional firemen.

Emergency services are not systematically consulted or informed when a new technology is being introduced.

This may result in relief workers who do not know how to react effectively. When this happens, incidents get a quickly receive negative attention on social media.

Our  current society also has different expectations: in the past it was sufficient that the fire brigade sought a relatively quick and good solution for simple problems. Now the fire brigade is expected to come up with integral answers to the most complex issues.

What will happen with the introduction of self-driving cars?

Are there still traffic accidents? Can we cut open these cars of the future? Do our people have the right skills to rescue the victims?

Does the use of drones and robots for assistance mean that we no longer need first and second responders in a risky environment? Will we soon teach programmers, hackers and gamers to support the rescue teams in the field?

What is the impact of more and increasing more  powerful batteries on board vehicles?  And how are we affected by the use of new types of energy sources and storage systems for energy?

What effect do smart homes and smart cities have on preventing and reporting fires?

Will we have more interventions in the future due to climate change -  or less?

What could virtual reality mean for firefighting in relation to education and prevention?

What are the negative consequences on the well-being and health of a firefighter, due to these changing conditions?

Being the Minister of Security and Minister of the Interior, I do not have the immediate answers to these questions and concerns. Everything points in the direction of a major change to the risks within First Response, and our ways of coping with those risks. If we want to be ready for the future, we must evolve as an organization and focus on innovation.

Being a member of CTIF, the International Association of Fire and Rescue Services, Belgium wants to make an important contribution and set an example at and international level.

I am proud to see today that our own Federal Center of Expertise for Civil Security, hosting the National Committee of CTIF Belgium, is responsible for the organization of this important Seminar in Brussels. I hope you all enjoyed the program and the accommodation. I want to say thanks to the employees of the Federal Public Service  for the work they have done. The result is fantastic!

Within the working groups and committees of CTIF, one initiative in particular received my special attention and support: the ISO project on Rescue Information.

I am delighted that Belgian expertise has been given a place in this international context. As you know, the new organization of the training of the fire and rescue services has always been one of my priorities.

The full ISO 17840 information will be included in the different training levels of the basic training for the new firefighters, as well as in the expert training for already experienced firefighters, in the context of Technical Rescue.

Ladies and gentlemen, before we proceed with the official closure of the Seminar, I would like to announce you the intention from the Belgian Public Transport Sector, who attach great importance to the safety of their customers:  the passengers.

Following the years of good relationship and the explicit will to work closely together on safety, the Belgian Public Transport Sector and CTIF Belgium have decided to work out an agreement.  All parties share the goal of increasing the safety of the passengers, by implementing the ISO Standard 17840 standardized symbols on the busses in use, towards early and clear recognition of the used energy source by the first and second responders.

This will provide all fire & rescue services, both volunteers and professionals, with all necessary information so that they can carry out their task safely and adequately. To formalize this commitment, we will now sign a Memorandum of Understanding."