technical aid organization

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Federal Agency for Technical Relief
- THW -

Federal Agency for Technical Relief Organization logo.svg
State level Federation
position Civil and Disaster Protection Organization
legal form unincorporated federal agency
Supervisory authority Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Home Affairs
founding 22nd August 1950
Headquarters Bonn , North Rhine-WestphaliaNorth Rhine-WestphaliaNorth Rhine-Westphalia 
Authority management President
Gerd Friedsam
Sabine Lackner
Servants full-time : approx. 1,800
(as of July 2020)
voluntary : around 80,000
(as of July 2020)
Budget volume approx. € 314.2 million (as of 2020)
Web presence
Logo THW

The Technische Hilfswerk ( THW ) is the German civil and disaster control organization of the federal government with voluntary helpers and full-time employees ( Section 1, Paragraph 1 of the THW Act ) in the division of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Building and Home Affairs . The Federal Agency is based in Bonn - Lengsdorf . The THW was founded on August 22, 1950 and since August 25, 1953 has been an unincorporated federal agency under public law with its own administrative structure. Its English name is German Federal Agency for Technical Relief .

The forerunner of the technical relief organization was the technical emergency aid (TN) founded in 1919 by Otto Lummitzsch , a pioneer officer , which existed until 1945.


Drinking water well built by THW in Somalia , 1993
As part of the administrative assistance for the fire brigade , a THW wheel loader tears open the roof of a burning school
On behalf of the fire brigade, the THW removes an oil trail in Berlin

The tasks of the THW are defined by the THW law of January 22, 1990, which was changed on May 1, 2020.

Technical assistance in civil defense

The need for the non-military protection of the civilian population from the effects of war and their elimination were the main reasons for the creation of the technical relief organization. With the legal mandate, reference is now made directly to the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Act and thus to the close cooperation between the federal and state governments in handling tasks in the event of a defense . To fulfill this task, the THW sets up facilities and units across the board, which are formed from helpers.

The THW is consciously subordinate to the Federal Ministry of the Interior and not to the Federal Ministry of Defense (BMVg). It is specifically not a military or paramilitary organization. In the event of a defense, the THW helpers are under the special protection of the fourth Geneva Convention as civil non-combatants , i.e. they are not allowed to fight, but also not be attacked (similar to the medical troops of the armed forces, which are military non-combatants).

Technical assistance abroad

The Federal Republic of Germany offers help to other states, especially in the event of natural disasters, or responds to requests for help from other states and, among other things, avails itself of this. a. the technical and human resources of the THW. The use of the THW as a humanitarian ambassador is an important element in the context of international relations, and help is mediated through the Foreign Office . For this purpose, the THW set up the Rapid Response Units Salvage Abroad (SEEBA) at the end of the 1980s and, since 2004, the Wasser Abroad (SEEWA), which can provide help worldwide within a few hours. In neighboring European countries, regular units with sometimes several hundred helpers are deployed (e.g. floods in southern France in December 2003).

There are also the High Capacity Pumping Modules (HCP) developed within the framework of the EU community procedure and the Technical Assistance Support Teams (TAST) provided by THW as a partner in the EU mechanism.

For the logistics processing of the units to be relocated abroad, the rapid deployment unit logistics processing in the case of air transport (SEElift) was set up.

In addition, long-term development or reconstruction projects are carried out on behalf of the UNHCR , for example in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the construction of the Stari most in Mostar or on the African continent (e.g. well construction ).

Technical assistance in disaster control at the request of the competent authorities

In accordance with Article 35 of the Basic Law as well as the basic legal regulations, the THW provides administrative assistance if necessary . The THW is obliged by the THW Act to provide technical assistance when requested by the authorities responsible for hazard prevention in the event of disasters, public emergencies or major accidents. This applies to the use of the THW in the local emergency response of the communities , i.e. by the communal fire brigades , but also for rescue services in the event of mass casualties , state and federal police or customs (e.g. lighting). In some federal states there is also technical assistance on traffic routes . The THW helps with many accidents , storms , landslides or floods and draws on the technology and organization it has created to perform its duties in civil protection.

Fulfillment of public tasks by agreement

In addition to the cases of administrative assistance, the THW can take on public tasks by agreement.

In principle, any person or company can request the THW as long as the task is original and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry responsible for the area issues a declaration of no objection that there is no competition with the private sector. For example, planned tree felling without any delay in danger does not justify a deployment.


Founding years after the Second World War

After the technical emergency aid, founded by Otto Lummitzsch in 1919, was dissolved by the victorious powers in 1945, Lummitzsch was commissioned on August 22, 1950 by the then Federal Minister of the Interior , Gustav Heinemann , to set up a similar organization for the Federal Republic under the name of "Civil Order Service" . One month later, on September 16, 1950, Lummitzsch received an order from Heinemann to begin “work on the establishment of a civil security service”. From October 20, 1951, the designation “Technical Relief Organization” (THW) became official; this word creation was not new, but was already the title of a TN advertising brochure from 1920.

Initially founded primarily as an organization to combat strikes, the first few years were marked by conflicts with employee representatives. In particular, the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) and IG Metall saw the newly established THW primarily as a "strike breaker organization". Such reservations intensified in view of the obvious continuity of the THW management staff. In addition to Otto Lummitzsch, u. a. with Erich Hampe (formerly deputy head of the TN and since 1952 - officially responsible for the development of the THW in the Federal Ministry of the Interior), Ludwig Röthemeier or Josef Fornoni three other former TN founding figures in leading positions at the THW. Fornoni and Röthemeier worked in the Reichsanstalt Technische Nothilfe until 1945 and held the rank of SS brigade leader . In addition to the tradition as a "strike breaker", the Nazi past of his management staff was decisive for the trade union and social democratic reservations about the THW foundation. By concentrating on other areas of activity such as civil protection, these concerns took a back seat.

The first foreign mission was carried out in February and March 1953 ( storm surge disaster in the Netherlands ). On August 25, 1953, the Federal Ministry of the Interior made the THW a legally unincorporated federal agency and subordinated it directly to it. The THW was entrusted , among other things, with technical services in civil air protection (later civil protection ).

THW in air protection and extended disaster control

Since 1955, the THW has been included in the Air Protection Aid Service (LSHD) as the provider of the rescue and repair service . In the summer of 1955, the THW already had 343 local branches . A regional association was set up in each of the federal states. With the establishment of the Federal Agency for Civil Protection in 1957, the THW was incorporated into this authority. The personnel requirements could be met quickly. The big problem in the early years was the lack of technical equipment. A lot of initiative was required here, so that many vehicles were privately owned at the time. Some local chapters were only equipped with a wheelbarrow for transport.

In the following decades the equipment was, in particular by equipping with modern equipment vehicle (GKW) and armored personnel carriers , completed (MTW) and modernized. Since the German reunification , not only military equipment of the Bundeswehr is in the ranks of the THW, but also vehicles of the former NVA have been integrated into the local units.

Reorganization after the end of the Cold War

As a result of the THW Helper Rights Act of January 22, 1990, the THW was separated from the now so-called Federal Office for Civil Protection on January 1, 1993 and continues to exist as a directly subordinate higher federal authority to the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

In 1994 a reorganization became necessary due to the changed global political situation. The rescue and repair trains were disbanded and divided into more flexible technical trains with specialist groups (e.g. infrastructure or lighting ). At that time, some sub-units of the THW were handed over to the local fire brigades (e.g. ABC trains ) or medical organizations (e.g. telecommunications trains ) and the focus was again placed on technical assistance and rescue services.

Internationalization and ZMZ

In addition to its national tasks, the THW is also increasingly involved in international structures. Cooperation with the United Nations , such as in the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group , which has existed since 1991 , has been intensified. On Civil Protection Mechanism of the European Union ( "EU mechanism"), the THW is different since 2001 units and modules involved.

On December 8, 2008, the President of the Technical Relief Organization, Albrecht Broemme , and the General Inspector of the Bundeswehr , General Wolfgang Schneiderhan , signed a "cooperation protocol between the Federal Ministry of the Interior, represented by the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, and the Federal Ministry of Defense on cooperation Assistance at home and abroad ”. Thereafter, the THW can also use Bundeswehr properties as part of civil-military cooperation (ZMZ) and provide mutual training support. For foreign missions of the THW, agreements have been made for the flight of THW helpers in transport aircraft of the Bundeswehr, the medical care of THW helpers in emergency medical facilities of the Bundeswehr and various measures of logistical support, e.g. B. Involvement of THW helpers in the field post and cash supply.

Directors / presidents and vice-presidents of THW

  • 1952–1955: Otto Lummitzsch
  • 1955–1958: Alexander Löfken
  • 1958–1962: Rudolf Schmid
  • 1962–1977: Hans Zielinski
  • 1977–1985: Hermann Ahrens
  • 1985/1986: Helmut Meier
  • 1986–2002: Gerd Jürgen Henkel
  • 2002–2006: Georg Thiel
  • 2006–2019: Albrecht Broemme / since 2011: Vice President: Gerd Friedsam
  • from 2020: Gerd Friedsam , Vice President: Sabine Lackner


Macro data

The THW has 79,543 volunteers, including 16,180 young helpers (members of the THW-Jugend e.V.) and around 1,800 full-time employees. With the suspension of compulsory military service in Germany and the related option of compulsory civil protection in 2011, the number of active emergency services also fell noticeably: This fell from 41,127 at the end of 2010 to 38,604 at the end of 2012. This corresponds to a decrease of 6 percent. The number of women, on the other hand, has increased significantly in recent years, from 2006 to 2015 by 41 percent. With 12,229 women, the proportion of women among volunteers is 15.37 percent.

year Total number of THW members Emergency services * youth Women Working hours


2003 76,725 - 13,843 - -
2004 77.021 - 14,481 - -
2005 79,044 - 15.202 - -
2006 80,615 41,279 14,696 7,489 901,000
2007 82,486 41,945 15,497 7,792 623,000
2008 83,351 42,039 15.203 7,937 392,000
2009 83,807 41,887 15,497 8,086 494,000
2010 83,404 41,127 14,696 8,209 856,000
2011 82,444 39,326 14,791 8,696 570,000
2012 82,711 38,604 15,098 9,187 349,000
2013 83,830 38,781 15,264 9,873 1,862,000
2014 83,625 38,986 15,072 10.149 455.519
2015 81,332 66,601 14,731 10,576 1,108,489
2016 79,514 64,406 15,108 10,874 448,763
2017 78,756 63.286 15,470 11,265 478.085
2018 78,541 62,695 15,846 11,654 698.138
2019 79,543 63,363 16,180 12,229 667,542

* (Until the distinction was no longer made in 2015: only active helpers, i.e. minus so-called "reserve" and "old helpers")

Source: THW annual reports 2005 , 2010 , 2014 , 2015 , 2016 , 2017 , 2018 and 2019, last status: May 2020

As an authority in the department of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the THW is headed by the President . The current president has been Gerd Friedsam since January 1, 2020. The headquarters of the THW management is in Bonn - Lengsdorf in a joint property with the Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid (BBK).

668 THW local associations, 66 regional offices, 8 regional associations, three training centers and the THW management in Bonn are integrated into the administrative and organizational structures. Only voluntary helpers work in the local branches, while full-time staff are employed in the other organizational units.

THW management

The THW management based in Bonn reports to the THW President and supports him in his daily official business.

Since January 1, 2018, the organizational structure of the THW has changed and has continued to focus on the focus as an emergency organization. Since then, the strands of deployment (E), deployment support (U) and volunteering and training (EA) have been consistently across all levels .

The THW management is now divided into:

  • President and Vice Presidents
  • the extended line rod, with
    • Presidential Office
    • Strategy, governance and security research
    • Internal revision
    • Controlling
    • Press and communication
      • (The head of department EA2 is also the press spokesman of the THW and in a second function in the management team responsible for the press / communication area)
  • Deployment department (E) with the presentations
    • E1 domestic
    • E2 abroad
    • E3 Information and Communication (ICT), Tactical-Technical Operations Center (TTB), location
    • E4 logistics
    • E5 technology
  • Deployment Support Department (U) with the presentations
    • U1 staff
    • U2 organization and ICT architecture
    • U3 Finance and Law
    • U4 Safety, Health Protection and Real Estate
  • Department of Volunteering and Training (EA) with the presentations
    • EA1 volunteering
    • EA2 media and public relations
      • (The head of department EA2 is also the press spokesman for the THW and has a second function in the management team)
    • EA3 didactics and methodology, training media
    • EA4 training support
    • EA5 training center Hoya
    • EA6 training center Neuhausen

Until December 31, 2017, the THW line was structured as follows:

  • Management staff
    • Press and public relations department
    • Internal revision
    • Controlling
  • Representative for volunteering
  • Deployment department (E) with the presentations
    • E1 principle
    • E2 abroad
    • E3 competence development
    • E4 logistics
    • E5 technology / TTB
  • Central services (Z) with the units
    • Z1 Personnel and Law
    • Z2 organization
    • Z3 finance, real estate
    • Z4 Safety and Health Protection (SuG)
    • Z5 information and communication

THW regional associations

The eight regional associations of the THW

The eight regional associations are the contact persons for the highest regional authorities as well as the regional associations of other organizations and agencies. They are headed by the state representatives.

Since January 1, 2018, the organizational structure of the THW has changed and has continued to focus on the focus as an emergency organization. Since then, the strands of deployment (E), deployment support, volunteering and training (EA) have existed across all levels. The Departments of Deployment (E), Deployment Support, and Volunteering and Training (EA) have been set up in the regional associations. Up to December 31, 2017, there were two departments ( deployment and volunteer work / central services ) as well as the office management and communication positions assigned to the state representative .

Currently they are divided as follows:

  • State association of Baden-Württemberg based in Stuttgart
  • Regional Association of Bavaria based in Munich
  • Regional association of Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt with headquarters in Berlin and the special tasks of the THW information center and the performance of capital city tasks , merger on 23 September 1995
  • State association Bremen, Lower Saxony with headquarters in Hanover and the special tasks of building oil damage control
  • Regional association Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein based in Kiel , founded March 23, 1996
  • Landesverband Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland with seat in Mainz (also seat of the center for foreign logistics)
  • Regional association of North Rhine-Westphalia based in Heiligenhaus (also the location of the logistics center)
  • Regional Association of Saxony, Thuringia, based in Altenburg , founded June 29, 1996

THW regional offices

A total of 66 regional offices are integrated in the regional associations , which act as service points for the local associations within their area of ​​responsibility and exercise technical supervision on behalf of the regional representative. The regional offices are responsible for a head of the regional office, who is the contact person at the regional level. He has several clerks and office clerks at his side in three areas:

  • Calls)
    • Mission preparation and follow-up
    • Furnishing
    • Auditing and Security
  • Voluntary work and training (EA; formerly Personnel Readiness (PEB))
    • education
    • Health protection
    • Media and public relations work as well as recruiting and receiving volunteers
    • Honors
  • Mission support (U; formerly Central Services (Z))
    • Helper right
    • household
    • Real estate

On January 1, 2018, the designation of the branch offices was changed to regional branches . The manager became the head of the regional office.

Regional offices divided by national association
Baden-Württemberg regional association Regional Association of Bavaria Regional association of Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt State association Bremen, Lower Saxony Regional association Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Schleswig-Holstein Regional association of Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland Regional association of North Rhine-Westphalia Regional Association of Saxony, Thuringia
Biberach Bad Tölz Berlin Braunschweig Hamburg Bad Kreuznach Aachen Chemnitz
Freiburg Bamberg Frankfurt (Oder) Bremen Lübeck Darmstadt Arnsberg Dresden
Goeppingen court Hall Buxtehude Neumunster Frankfurt Bielefeld Erfurt
Heilbronn Ingolstadt Magdeburg Goettingen Schleswig Gelnhausen Bochum Leipzig
Karlsruhe Karlstadt Potsdam Hanover Schwerin to water Dortmund
Mannheim Kempten Lingen Stralsund Homberg Dusseldorf
Stuttgart Mühldorf Oldenburg Koblenz Gelsenkirchen
Tübingen Munich Verden Merzig Cologne
Villingen-Schwenningen Nuremberg Neustadt adW Mönchengladbach
Schwandorf Saarbrücken Muenster
Straubing trier Olpe

THW local associations

The concept of the THW provides for at least one local association (OV) for every district and for every independent city, there are currently 668 local associations across Germany. Each local association is headed by the local representative as an honorary authority manager. He is represented by the deputy local representative, who is also the head of the OV staff. In addition, there is at least one technical train as an operational unit of a local association.

OV staff

The OV staff forms the administrative unit of a local association and is used for management and organization. In the event of an emergency, the management and coordination staff of the local association, the LuK-OV, emerges from it.

The following members are active in an OV staff:

In addition, there are two specialist advisers (FaBe) in each local association who report directly to the local representative.

Technical train

The equipment vehicle (GKW) is usually used first

The operational units are defined by the strength and equipment verification (StAN), which results in a nationwide uniformity, which is an advantage in large-scale operations such as the Elbe flood in 2002. Regardless of whether a unit comes from Bavaria or Schleswig-Holstein, the requester can rely on comparable skills.

727 technical trains (TZ) are currently deployed across the board in the local sections . This ensures that it can be quickly deployed for a wide variety of requirements.

The technical platoon is subordinate to the platoon leader and basically consists of the platoon that supports it, at least one rescue group (B) and one, up to a maximum of three specialist groups .

The B1 is equipped for quick and mobile use, the B2 for mainly stationary use with heavier equipment or to support other groups. The rescue groups are present across the board in every local association and represent the basis of the THW. They are reinforced by the various specialist groups or reinforce them.

The radio call name of the THW units is " Heros " in analogue 2 m and 4 m radio and digital radio .

Platoon troop

The train troop (ZTr) is used to lead the technical train (TZ). He is responsible for coordinating and handling operations. He sets up a command post and operates it for the technical train and, if necessary, for other subordinate units / sub-units. The platoon also organizes the use of personnel and materials as well as the logistics for the subordinate units. The platoon team establishes and maintains the connection to the superordinate operational command (EL) or command post (FüSt) as well as to neighboring units or organizations. If necessary, one or more pulling teams form a THW command post without staff.

Rescue group 1

The rescue group (B) is the most universal group in the technical train. The staff and equipment are geared towards coping with the widest possible range of tasks. As a rule, this group comes into play first and is therefore called the “Schnell-Einsatz-Gruppe”. It is supplemented and supported by the specialist groups or they support them.

The rescue group is currently available in three versions: the "standard" rescue group in the strength 0/2/7/9, the (extended) rescue group with the support system wood (B ASH) in the strength 0/2/10/12, which has a prefabricated wood system, a forklift and a stake trailer as additional equipment, and the rescue group with the deployment scaffolding system (B EGS) in the strength of 0/2/7/9.

Rescue group 2

Rescue group 2 (B2) has, in addition to basic equipment that is largely similar to that of B, additional, heavy components. In particular, it uses electrical and hydraulic tools with which a heavy rescue can be carried out even where exhaust gases or the noise of combustion-driven tools would hinder the use or endanger injured persons. A “heavy” version of the B2 is available once as type B in each of the 66 regional offices. It is also equipped with a concrete chain saw, plasma cutter, core drill and heavy lifting bags (132 t). With the implementation of the new THW framework concept, these groups were transferred to specialist group N (emergency supply / emergency repair).


A specialist group is a sub-unit of the technical train or, in the case of the specialist groups logistics , leadership / communication and the foreign units, independent with special supra-local or regional operational tasks. They are intended for use in the event of major loss events, for missions abroad and for special cases of damage. Due to the different needs in their respective specialization, they are sometimes available in fewer numbers. However, thanks to the structure that is geared towards supra-local cooperation, this is not a problem; every specialist group is available anywhere in Germany at any time. Within the area of ​​the respective regional office, each specialist group should be represented at least once (exception: specialist groups oil damage, bridge construction, SEEBA, SEEWA and SEElift). The THW currently has the following specialist groups: Bridge construction, electrical supply, management / communication, infrastructure, logistics, emergency supply / emergency repairs, location, oil damage, clearing, heavy rescue, blasting, drinking water supply, water hazards, water damage / pumps and the SEEBA (rapid deployment Rescue unit abroad), SEElift (rapid deployment unit for logistics processing in the event of air transport) and SEEWA (rapid deployment unit for water abroad).

Federal Music Train

Since 1987 the THW has also maintained the Federal Music Train in Hermeskeil . However, it is only representative of the Federal Agency. The music train appears at openings, anniversaries or other events all over Germany. He also has two fixed appointments a year. These are the Rhineland-Palatinate Day and the Day of National Mourning. In September 2011 the Bundesmusikzug premiered in New York on the Steubenparade .

Foreign units and modules


The SEEBA (Rapid Rescue Unit Abroad) was developed on the basis of the experience gained in the 1985 earthquake disaster in Mexico. It meets the quality criteria of the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) of the United Nations (UN).


The SEEWA (rapid deployment unit for water abroad) is available for deployment abroad. The SEEWA can operate independently as an independent unit and can be used worldwide for emergency water supply through water treatment. It is mainly used in the emergency phase after an acute event. In addition, SEEWA acts as a support unit for international organizations of the United Nations or the EU and is also integrated into the EU community procedure as the “Water purification (WP)” module.


The SEELIFT (rapid deployment unit for logistics processing in the case of air transport) supports the SEE and specialist groups with foreign assignments. The SEElift is the interface to the airport and enables fast and smooth handling and ensures compliance with freight regulations.


At the request of the United Nations, the THW can send a so-called “Standing Engineering Capacity” (SEC), which supports UN peace missions in their structural development and operation. An SEC-unit consists of a maximum of 30 emergency services that within 72 hours in the respective area of application deployed can be. There they are involved as specialists in the development of infrastructure, technology, logistics and administration in UN peace missions. The SEC is intended to provide quickly available support in the areas of water supply and disposal, electrical supply and distribution (including generators), wood construction and wood processing, metal construction and processing, civil engineering and, if necessary, in the automotive sector (workshop). The equipment of the SEC of the THW can be put together modularly.


As part of the European joint procedure, the THW has set up a "High Capacity Pumping (HCP)" module for each regional association, in accordance with the technical specifications of the EU Commission. The aim of this list was to incorporate the extensive specialist knowledge already available at THW in the field of FGr water damage / pumps into European civil protection and to have standardized and efficient units available for pumping work in flood areas and for water supply in the event of forest fires throughout Europe in the future.


The primary task of the Technical Assistance and Support Team (TAST) developed by THW is to accompany exploration and coordination experts from the EU and to ensure their ability to work through administrative, technical and logistical support.


As part of an EU project (see also projects), the THW and the Swedish civil protection authority MSB set up an “Emergency Temporary Shelter” (ETS) module since the beginning of 2010. In total, emergency and makeshift accommodation for up to 1000 people as well as the necessary camp infrastructure (water, power supply, waste management, etc.) can be provided.


The THW operates numerous cooperations. At the local level, contacts are maintained with fire brigades, medical services and city administrations. This is very important for the operations of the THW, as it almost always works on behalf of third parties. The Bavarian State Association of the THW, for example , signed a cooperation agreement with the German Amateur Radio Club (DARC) on October 13, 2014. It is agreed that:

  • the support of the DARC for the THW through the establishment of wireless telecommunication connections if other telecommunication connections are not or insufficiently available
  • To prepare for possible support missions, joint training events and radio exercises are carried out

THW youth

THW youth

The THW-Jugend has been the youth organization of the Technical Relief Organization since 1984. It has set itself the goal of introducing children from the age of six to the work of the THW in a playful way and thus to find potential interested parties for active service at the THW at the age of 18. It is possible to visit one of the mini-groups. The THW-Jugend does not belong to the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, but is an independent registered association . This regulation was made with the ulterior motive not to maintain a state youth organization.

In order to promote camaraderie between the young people in the individual youth groups, various youth camps are organized from local to federal level at home and abroad. The federal youth camp is organized every three years, alternately by a different state youth leadership, with around 5,000 participants from all over Germany. As a rule, the young people arrive in THW service vehicles and are accommodated in communal tents.

In addition, tent camps are also held at state and local level, in some cases with other youth associations. The aim of these events is to establish contact between the individual youth groups and their young helpers and to intensify existing friendships.

Helper associations

The so-called THW helper associations play an increasingly important role within the technical relief organization . These are mostly non-profit associations that have made it their task to support the technical relief organization from outside. The helpers' associations are outside the structure of the authorities and support the helpers and local associations with their own offers and donations. For example, the helpers can insure themselves as members of a helpers' association for cases of occupational disability . The central purpose of the THW helper associations is usually the procurement of input material that cannot or may not be procured from the funds of the Federal Institute. For example, some aid associations have set themselves the goal of further expanding the comradely communication that exists in the THW. The large communication platforms outside of the federal THW extranet play a major role in this context.


THW-GKW 1 in action

Within the framework of the deployment tactics and deployment organization of the THW, the THW differentiates between deployment structure and THW structure. Operation structure describes the area of ​​responsibility of operations management and command posts in the event of an incident. THW potentials are sent to this area. The THW structure outlines the area of ​​responsibility in which the THW carries out management, coordination, support and other operational measures within its own structure and thus outside the operational structure.

Significant stakes

THW forces in flood action
THW building a sandbag wall in 2006


  • 1954: Help by 3,000 THW helpers during the flooding in Bavaria in 1954 .
  • 1962: During the storm surge in 1962 on the North Sea, the THW from five regional associations is deployed. It was the largest operation of the THW until then.
  • 1975: 1,000 THW helpers were involved in the fire in the Lüneburg Heath in August 1975.
  • 1997: The flood of the Oder in 1997 was the first major mission after reunification, with 54 days of action and more than 7,200 THW emergency services from 392 local associations.
  • 2002: The largest deployment in the history of the THW was the Elbe flood in 2002 , in which 24,000 emergency personnel were deployed with 1,750,000 hours and technical equipment.
  • 2005: During the snow chaos in the Münsterland in November 2005, over 270 emergency power generators from THW from all over Germany were used to supply the region.
  • 2006: 800 THW helpers provided help during the 2006 Elbe flood .
  • 2007: Nationwide, the THW was requested to repair the storm damage caused by Hurricane Kyrill on January 18 and 19, 2007. Almost half of all local units with around 5,500 emergency services were deployed here.
  • 2013: During floods in Bavaria and parts of eastern Germany, flood operation in 2013 , over 16,000 THW emergency services were on duty for around 1,600,000 hours in six weeks.
  • 2014: After the storm Ela in June 2014, which caused severe damage in North Rhine-Westphalia, around 4,000 THW emergency services supported the clean-up work.
  • 2014: In the course of the refugee crisis in Germany , THW was involved in refugee aid from the beginning of 2014. In the period up to March 2016, around 16,000 helpers from all regional associations were deployed. Above all, logistical, technical and personnel support was provided for the establishment, maintenance and, for a short time, the operation of accommodation.
  • 2018: During the moor fire near Meppen in September and October 2018, 1,900 helpers from more than 150 local associations from all over Germany were on duty over several weeks with 93,000 hours of work. The focus was on leadership support and pumping work.
  • 2019: Snow use in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. At times, more than 1,300 volunteer and full-time THW workers were on duty here every day.

foreign countries


THW helper in training with protective helmets that are currently no longer approved (see BeklRiLi)

Training at the THW is regulated by THW service regulation 2 (THW-DV 2). Then the training is divided into three stages.

The THW helpers first go through basic training and thereby acquire their helper status. In these courses, the prospective helpers acquire general basics in handling devices. Safety measures and knowledge about the structure and structure of the THW are also conveyed. The basic training concludes with an exam, which consists of a theoretical and a practical exam. The content of the training and the examination are regulated in an examination regulation. In order to qualify for action, vaccination against tetanus, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B and the health check-up G26.1 are also required. required. Without this, a helper may not be active in the field.

After successfully completing the basic training, the helpers are directed to their use within the local association. This is followed by training level 2 “specialist training”, which combines several training phases. The specialist training serves to prepare the helpers for their specialist tasks in the THW unit and lasts i. d. Usually 2 years in which one already takes part in missions. Certain functions require further separate training as part of functional training. This concerns z. B. Paramedics, drivers or machinists. Leaders and sub-leaders of the THW are prepared for their tasks as part of leadership training. Finally, the training abroad serves to train helpers who are eligible for assignment abroad.

In training level 3 “further qualification”, the helpers are given long-term training in order to maintain their level of knowledge and pass on innovations.

The training requirements described in the training levels are ensured by the training system. The technical training is basically implemented through the location training. Area training serves u. a. the cross-regional training of a certain topic (e.g. radio operator training) and similar functionaries (e.g. train driver training). School-based training ensures the entire range of specialist qualifications in their entirety or in addition to other forms of training. The THW maintains three training centers (also called federal schools) at the locations Hoya ( Lower Saxony ), Neuhausen auf den Fildern ( Baden-Württemberg ) and Brandenburg an der Havel ( Brandenburg ) The latter was founded in 2019 and focuses on the training of people who work in the THW do a federal voluntary service. In the area of e-learning there is an interactive and internet-based portal for training and further education, communication, preparation, implementation and follow-up. There are also courses held at the AKNZ Ahrweiler , the DEULA in Nienburg , the IBK Heyrothsberge and the BVA in Berlin-Johannisthal .

The training system also provides for other forms of training and, as a special form of training, exercises and competitions as a representation of the reality of operations.

The THW does not levy any contributions, reimburses loss of earnings and travel expenses and insures its helpers during training and deployment through the Federal and Railway Accident Insurance . Workwear and protective clothing is provided for work. Training in the local chapters and at the training center is free for all helpers.


THW members are required to wear uniform uniforms , which are generally dark blue. The types of clothing are regulated by the directive on clothing and labeling in the technical relief organization (clothing directive, BeklRiLi) as an administrative regulation in the area of ​​the Federal Agency. The guideline distinguishes between protective clothing, protective work clothing, uniforms and daytime uniforms for all helpers, youth clothing for young helpers as well as special protective clothing, foreign clothing and clothing for cooks and kitchen helpers for individual activities. With the exception of day shift clothing or the THW vest, which you have to procure yourself, clothing is provided for work.

Protective clothing

Two active helpers with emergency suits (according to current guidelines only allowed with T-shirts) in the background five young helpers

Protective clothing is mandatory for operations. Occasionally, it is also used for public representation, for example during demonstrations where a service suit would not be appropriate.

The multifunctional operational suit (MEA) has been provided as protective clothing since 2000 , which is often seen in reports on operations and therefore shapes the image of the THW in public. It consists of a jacket and trousers (in which there is a removable light acid protection) in dark blue, black boots and, if required, a T-shirt (short or long sleeve), gloves, fleece jacket or wind stopper, belt and, if necessary, other personal protective equipment. A helmet (e.g. Dräger HPS 4300), base cap, winter hat, beret or knitted / fleece hat is provided as headgear. The emergency suit costs around 680 euros to purchase. The operational jacket has yellow reflective stripes on the sleeves, on the pockets, on the chest and lower back, while the operational trousers in the lower leg area. On the back of the jacket there is a light strip with the inscription "THW", or in the case of executives "Zugführer" or "Gruppenführer". Name tape and service identification are worn on the flaps of the breast pockets. A new generation of the MEA is currently being tested. The clothing directive does not provide for the identification of respiratory equipment wearers or CBRN helpers on the helmet. Functional vests are occasionally worn during operations, similar to the fire brigade.

The pilot suit (EAP) , which has been in use since the 1960s and was initially sand-colored and gray-blue from the 1970s, is no longer approved for use, but is still sometimes worn as protective clothing today.

Protective work clothing

The MEA and EAP ( see above ) as well as work suits are approved as protective clothing. It is worn for general work in the accommodation, such as technical services such as maintenance and repairs, as well as practical training.

The work suit, which is usually worn as protective clothing, is made of robust and inexpensive blue fabric. Work trousers with belt, shirt or T-shirt and combat boots are worn. Depending on requirements, work jackets, sweaters, polo shirts, gloves and other personal protective equipment (high-visibility clothing in accordance with EN 471, life jacket etc.) as well as weatherproof clothing or parkas can be worn. A vest can be obtained by yourself. A base cap, beret, winter hat and helmet are provided as headgear.


Strap buckles on the THW service suit

A service suit is provided as service clothing for all services that do not require special protective clothing . In practice, however, this is often understood as a "gala suit" and only worn on special occasions, e.g. B. at conferences, receptions or honors.

The service suit (DA) consists of slate blue service trousers, a light blue service jacket, a white shirt (long-sleeved with a tie, short-sleeved without) for men and a white blouse for women, black loafers and socks. Depending on requirements, a parka, coat, gloves and headgear (service cap, beret) can be worn. As a service costume, women can also wear the service suit with a costume jacket and skirt. The service jacket has a breast pocket with a flap on the left side and two side pockets near the hips, also with flaps, as well as a sovereign badge on the left upper arm ( federal eagle , above the initials "THW"). An aluminum name badge is worn on the flap of the breast pocket and a strap buckle can be attached over it. On the opposite side of the breast, the service identification is fixed with Velcro strips. The original draft for the service suit came from the designer Heinz Oestergaard , who also designed the new police uniforms in 1971.

Day shift clothing

In 2011, day shift clothing was introduced in addition to the existing types of clothing . Day service clothing is an alternative for official appointments if the multifunctional suit or the service suit does not seem appropriate. The day shift clothing consists of a black blouson, a light blue-gray shirt for men or a blouse for women, dark gray cargo pants, black loafers and socks. Depending on requirements, a sweater and a black cap can be worn. The THW logo and the federal flag are affixed to the sleeves of the blouson and shirt, and service numbers and nameplates are worn on the flaps of the breast pockets. The day shift clothing is manufactured by the GCL company and must be procured in-house.


Dräger HPS 4100 safety helmet

The HPS 4100 safety helmet specially made for the THW (HPS 4300 since a model changeover) from Dräger is part of the personal protective equipment of every helper and must be worn during operations. It has the shape of the combat helmet of the German armed forces and can accommodate other equipment such as a lamp, visor or protective goggles and neck leather. If the helpers leave a danger area or if it is allowed to take off the helmet (e.g. when defending a dike ), the helpers can use a baseball cap . The previously worn helmet corresponded to a work safety helmet , but with a chin strap. A visor and a leather neck protector could be attached.

A service cap (peaked cap) is provided for the service suit , but this is no longer issued again. THW has also had berets since the early 1990s . It depends on the respective local association whether and when these are worn. In the currently valid clothing guideline, they are no longer listed after they were previously explicitly provided for in action and protective work clothing or as headgear for work suits. A separate cap is provided for the daily work clothing.


Service indicator for volunteer helpers

The service position of voluntary helpers is expressed by appropriate labels on the clothing. The THW logo is surrounded by two fields in which vertical bars are inscribed depending on the position. The basic color of the service identification is dark blue, and black for daytime uniforms. The color of the marking is light blue for emergency services, and silver for local association staff and specialist advisors (white on protective clothing). The site manager, as the head of the department, wears a golden (yellow on protective clothing) service indicator. Candidates for helpers do not have a service badge, so the helpers only receive their badges after they have successfully completed their basic training. Due to the lack of use of ranks in THW, there is no corresponding marking.

Functional identifier for full-time employees

Full-time THW employees wear function labels in silver and gold or white and yellow. To distinguish between volunteers, the bars are inscribed horizontally here; from the level of the state commissioner they are broader (interrupted at the vice-president).


The vehicles, clothing and a large part of the equipment of the technical relief organization are kept in shades of blue ( RAL number 5002, ultramarine blue ). The reason for this is that after the Second World War, the vehicles of rescue trains - which incidentally were not only subordinate to the THW, but also to many fire departments - were painted blue. So you could differentiate the "red fire brigade" for fire fighting from the "blue fire brigade" for rescue tasks. In the times of the Cold War , rescue trains had, among other things, the task of rescuing people during armed conflicts and of recovering animals and property, as well as restoring the infrastructure. In 1995 the rescue trains were replaced by technical trains as part of the restructuring of the THW , the blue color remained and developed into a worldwide identification symbol of the technical relief organization. Based on other well-known advertising slogans, there are unofficial slogans such as “THW - The Blue Angels” or “THW - Our electricity is blue!” (E.g. as labeling of large emergency power generators).
An exception are the vehicles of the leadership / communication specialist group, which are used as a command post in the event of an incident ( management vehicles and command and communication vehicles with command and position trailers). These are painted white and provided with blue lettering (formerly orange with white lettering) so that they can be quickly recognized as a control point between other vehicles. This also has the advantage that the work spaces in the vehicles do not heat up so quickly in the sun.

Self-image of the THW

Since there was a danger of war between the then NATO states and the Warsaw Pact states and the divided Germany lay exactly between the two main opponents, civil protection and disaster control had to be started in addition to building up its own armed forces.

At that time, politicians did not agree on how to protect the civilian population against the danger in a meaningful way. The establishment of so-called rescue trains, which were to be used in NBC attacks , was a possible option at the time. The tasks of the technical relief organization would have been primarily rescue and repair operations during or after military attacks. Large parts of the infrastructure, such as the rail network, telecommunications and energy supply, were in state hands and had their own disaster control, e.g. B. the disaster control of the German Federal Post Office .

The turning point and peaceful revolution in the GDR brought a number of changes for the THW: The end of the Cold War, the GDR's accession to the Federal Republic of Germany and the privatization of state-owned companies would have been reasons for the dissolution of the THW. Instead, further local chapters were founded in the new area of ​​the Federal Republic of Germany and the operational competencies were expanded. The restructuring of the THW in the mid-1990s made it a modern and flexible emergency organization that both the state and local authorities can access. The reasons for the existence and expansion of the THW were the positive experiences with the emergency services, their leadership and, last but not least, the tens of thousands of volunteer women and men in the local associations.

Today the THW can look back on many assignments in Germany and abroad. There are also agreements with the police and fire brigade in the local emergency response department and THW personnel are deployed nationwide every week. The establishment of the THW-Jugend shows that in addition to civil and disaster protection tasks, the THW also takes on social responsibility in the respective regions.

Media and communication work of the THW

The THW has several levels on which active organizational communication is carried out. Until December 31, 2017, the press spokesman of the THW was also the head of the press and public relations department in the management staff of the THW management. Since January 1, 2018, the Media and Public Relations Department (EA department) has been responsible for central public relations and media work. The head of the department is also the press spokesman in the management team and is responsible for the central press and communication work of the THW with the involvement of the media and public relations department. This is where the press and public relations work for the federal agency THW is coordinated and coordinated with its eight regional associations as well as with the press office of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The second level is that of the regional associations of the THW. Here, the communications clerk (EA) organizes the press and public relations work in coordination with the regional representative and the THW management. This also includes coordination with the regional offices in the respective national association. He is also the point of contact for press and public relations work for the local branches in the regional association. The Foreign Office and the Press and Public Relations department can send media officers, specially trained foreign workers for media work, for assignments abroad.

The local associations organize their press and public relations work in coordination with the regional association and the regional offices. The local representative and / or the representative for public relations (BÖ) are responsible for the implementation. The local associations also operate their own press work. In addition, the representatives of the volunteer office in the THW (state spokesman and helper spokesman) communicate via various channels.

In addition to traditional media work, THW communicates via various social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. There is also an appearance on YouTube.

In the past few years the THW has implemented various media, public and volunteer advertising campaigns. Including the campaign “Get out of everyday life. Rein ins THW! "With its own campaign website, but also the media campaign in the context of refugee aid 2015" THW shows face ... and you ?! ". The THW also produced video and commercials for its communication work, including a spot that was set to music by Manfred Lehmann , the German voice actor for Bruce Willis.

Guiding principles

The guiding principles that should shape every volunteer and full-time contributor in their understanding, behavior and identification are as follows:

  1. We are always ready to help in Germany and worldwide.
  2. We perform our tasks in a goal-oriented and conscientious manner.
  3. We work together, plan together and make responsible decisions.
  4. We value training and exercises.
  5. We behave in a danger-conscious manner and protect one another.
  6. We respect one another and act in an exemplary manner; our managers have a major responsibility.
  7. We communicate in a targeted, honest and understandable way.
  8. We are committed to democracy and do not tolerate any discrimination.
  9. We are also committed to the diversity of our society at THW.
  10. We inspire young people for the THW and to take on responsibility.

See also

Portal: Technical Relief Organization  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of Technical Relief Organization


  • Gernot Wittling: Civil Protection in the 21st Century. Verlagsgesellschaft Stumpf & Kossendey, Edewecht 2001, ISBN 3-932750-66-7 .
  • Gernot Wittling (Ed.): We help. The THW - yesterday - today - tomorrow. Self-published by THW, Bonn 2000, ISBN 3-00-006667-5 .
  • Head of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief: THW annual report. Published annually by the THW
  • Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid (Ed.): Civil Protection . Magazine for civil and disaster protection. Quarterly magazine (available online as a PDF version )
  • Federal office of THW-Jugend e. V .: Youth Journal. The THW youth magazine. Semi-annual magazine (available online as a PDF version )
  • Peter Lohmann (Ed.): Commitment! From Bremen to Somalia - 60 years of the Technical Relief Organization (THW) in Bremen. Published by the THW-Landeshelfervereinigung Bremen eV, Bremen 2012, ISBN 978-3-937692-07-4 .
  • The THW regional representative for Bavaria (publisher): THW Journal Bayern magazine published three to four times a year (available online as a PDF version )

Web links

Commons : Technisches Hilfswerk  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Technisches Hilfswerk  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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