BS-I-1:Person hours required for dealing during weather-related loss events

The picture shows a street flooded with water at night. Two emergency personnel are wading through the water, one of them is directly at an emergency vehicle. Click to enlarge
Major damage events make high demands even on well-trained emergency services.
Source: Photograph: © Sebastian /

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

Table of Contents


BS-I-1: Person hours required for dealing with damage from weather-related incidents

In years with hurricanes, heavy rain or extreme flood events, there is increased demand on the operational burdens to be borne by THW helpers. The time series examined is strongly marked by extremely severe individual weather events. So far, it has not been possible to identify a significant trend.

The graph shows two time series for the years 1999 to 2017. A bar chart shows the total hours worked in thousands of hours.
BS-I-1: Person hours required for dealing with damage from weather-related incidents

The graph shows two time series for the years 1999 to 2017. A bar chart shows the total hours worked in thousands of hours. The values for the individual years vary greatly. There were higher values in 2002 with around 390,000 hours, 2006 with around 370,000, 2007 with around 200,000, 2010 with around 410,000 and 2013 with around 1.5 million hours. In most other years, the values are well below 100,000. There is no trend. In addition, a line represents the average deployment hours per THW volunteer. These figures also fluctuate. In years when total deployment hours are also low, the figures are between 5 and 10 hours. In 2002, it was about 21, in 2006 about 15, in 2010 and 2011 about 12, and in 2013 about 41 hours per emergency worker.

Source: THW (helper statistics)

Carrying on to exhaustion?

Since 2000, Germany has experienced a number of extreme flood events which all took the form of once-ina- hundred-year-floods. Latterly, in early spring 2016, entire landscapes were under water in areas of the south and east of Germany. Rivers broke their banks flooding settlements with mud and flotsam; cellars were flooded, houses were damaged and some were even destroyed. In October 2017, hurricanes such as Xavier and Herwart also left major impacts on the country.

Such extreme events which, judging by projection outcomes, may increase in frequency and intensity as climatic conditions change, entailing massive increases in operational burdens for emergency personnel. After all, part of the essential remit is to provide technical assistance whenever extreme weather events cause emergency or disaster situations. For example, the emergency personnel secure dykes by means of sandbags or they install mobile flood protection walls in order to prevent flooding, they evacuate residents and they prevent the flooding of industrial installations or sewage treatment plants. After severe storms or hurricanes the emergency services remove windthrows from roads and rails making them passable again. Even after a relatively brief and localised heavy-rain event, emergency personnel are often busy for hours pumping out flooded cellars and living accommodation dry.

In many places the organisations active in the area of civil protection are signalling already now that the number of weather-related incidents is rising for which technical assistance is required. There are detailed and comparable data available on the number, duration and causes of operations carried out by the THW. Although so far no significant trends have been determined regarding long-term increased burdens on emergency services, the figures for recent years demonstrate the way in which individual extreme events – and especially the ‘floods of the century’ in various river basins – have characterised the operational regime.

The flooding events in catchment areas of Danube and Elbe in 2013 were particularly demanding in terms of operational effort. The total number of person hours in that year amounted to 1.5 million. The reasons for this enormous burden can be found in the THW’s partly preventive requirements, the consistently high demand for emergency personnel for the entire duration of operations from late May to mid-July and the spatial extent of the areas affected. Overall, there were nine Länder affected. The high number of person hours which accrued in 2002, 2006 and 2010 were mostly due to flooding events. The above-average person hours accrued in 2007 were predominantly due to the low-pressure system inflicted on Germany by hurricane Cyril in January of that year.

In May and June 2016, the impacts of heavy rain kept emergency services on their toes nationwide. From late May until early July, approximately 10,000 THW personnel – 7,700 of those THW’s were voluntary helpers – worked day and night using boats, high-performance pumps, big emergency generators and lighting equipment. Simbach-am-Inn was assisted by the THW’s biggest drinking water emergency operation in Germany ever. For 14 days the THW supplied the population with a total of 5.6 million litres of water. Another focal point was the restoration of road bridges and supply infrastructures which had been destroyed by streams and rivers turning into raging torrents.

The steadily high demand for emergency services continuing work week after week is a particularly great challenge for THW which relies predominantly on voluntary helpers for their personnel. For some helpers this involves release from their place of work, sometimes for weeks on end – a tricky situation in view of the current labour market. This results in a high turnover of emergency helpers which requires co-ordination and entails organisational problems.

Basically it has to be borne in mind that the THW’s person hours give only limited clues as to the other organisations involved in civil protection because the THW operates only on demand. Besides, the figures are also dependent on the type of events occurring, as in specific cases, it is above all the THW with their specific material equipment which will be geared up for the task. For years with particularly extreme events it has to be expected that other organisations too will encounter distinct difficulties in view of weather-related operational burdens and problems resulting from their voluntary structure; apart from THW, these other organisations are the fire brigades, the German Red Cross, the Workers’ Samaritan’s Foundation, the German Lifeguard Association, the Malteser Hilfsdienst and the St. John Ambulance Brigade.

At present, options are being examined to see in which way the experiences of other emergency organisations can be incorporated usefully in DAS Monitoring as far as civil protection is concerned.



BS-R-4: Active disaster protection workers

BAU-I-5: Claims expenditure for property insurance

WW-I-3: Floodwater



Adaptation of existing crisis management and emergency provisioning to current requirements and future developments such as climate change (DAS, ch. 3.2.14)