Technisches Hilfswerk
The Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk (Federal Agency for Technical Relief, THW) is a civil protection
Emergency management
Emergency management is the generic name of an interdisciplinary field dealing with the strategic organizational management processes used to protect critical assets of an organization from hazard risks that can cause events like disasters or catastrophes and to ensure the continuance of the...

 organisation controlled by the German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 federal government. 99% of its 83.807 members (January 2010) are volunteers.


The tasks of the THW are described in a law called THW-Gesetz.
These tasks are:
  • technical relief in Germany as part of national civil protection measures
  • technical or humanitarian relief in foreign countries, as assigned by the government
  • technical and logistical support for other (German) GOs, NGO
    Non-governmental organization
    A non-governmental organization is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term originated from the United Nations , and is normally used to refer to organizations that do not form part of the government and are...

    s or other authorities like fire brigades, police or the custom authorities.


After World War II the Technisches Hilfswerk was founded in 1950, by order of the minister of the interior. The first president of the THW was Otto Lumitzsch, who already had founded the THW's predecessor, the Technische Nothilfe, in 1919. The main purpose of the THW was civil defense in the event of war. This has changed during the decades; today the THW is a capable helper in a wide spectrum of disasters, such as traffic accidents, industrial disasters, or earthquakes.

The largest disaster control action took place in August 2002 after the severe flooding of the Elbe river in eastern Germany. All in all, about 24,000 THW members participated in the operation, with up to 10,000 people helping simultaneously along the Elbe and its tributaries.

The largest engagement outside Germany was in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 2000, after storms Lothar
Lothar (storm)
Lothar is the name of a low-pressure system that resulted in a violent extratropical cyclone sweeping across Central Europe on December 26, 1999, causing major damage in France, southern Germany, and Switzerland. Wind speeds reached around 150 km/h in lower areas and more than 250 km/h on...

 and Martin
Martin (storm)
Martin was a violent European windstorm which crossed southern Europe on 27–28 December 1999, one day after another powerful storm, Lothar....

 had destroyed much of the overhead electrical overland wires and overturned trees blocked many streets from December 26 to 28, 1999. The main contribution was supplying temporary electrical power
Emergency power system
Emergency power systems are a type of system, which may include lighting, generators, fuel cells and other apparatus, to provide backup power resources in a crisis or when regular systems fail. They find uses in a wide variety of settings from residential homes to hospitals, scientific...

 for hospitals and other important institutions and rebuilding parts of the electrical system.

The organisation has also been active in many disaster relief operations abroad, for example after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake...

 (for both relief operations and medium-term rebuilding), Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

 in 2005, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake
2005 Kashmir earthquake
The 2005 Kashmir earthquake was a major earthquake centered in Pakistan-administered Kashmir known as Azad Kashmir, near the city of Muzaffarabad, affecting Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. It occurred at 08:52:37 Pakistan Standard Time on 8 October 2005...

, in 2010 during the flooding in Poland, and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, also known as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, or the Great East Japan Earthquake, was a magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately east...



As a federal authority which is part of the Federal Ministry of the Interior the THW is headed by the president of the THW administration together with its board. The current president, from 16 May 2006, is Dipl.-Ing Albrecht Broemme. He previously served as national director of the Fire Chief Berlin Fire Department. The headquarters of the THW administration and management (THW-Leitung) are in Bonn-Lengsdorf, together with the Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe (BBK) (Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance).

Structure of the THW: It consists of 668 THW local chapters, 66 offices, 8 regional associations and the THW administration in Bonn.

THW administration - based in Bonn is subject to the THW-President and assist the latter in his daily official business. It consists of the management staff, the representative for the volunteer and the two departments work with the units E1 principle, E2 abroad, E3 competence development, E4 logistics and E5 technology and Division Central Services with the units Z1 helpers and staff, Z2 organization, Finance Z3, Z4 and Z5 right information and communication.

The THW-Logistikzentrum (THW logistics center) has its office in Heiligenhaus and is via its attachment to the Logistics Unit E4 part of the THW administration.

Field organisation

The THW is stationed all over Germany in 668 local chapters, called Ortsverbände. Some 80,000 people are active in this organisation including about 15,000 young volunteers (members of the THW-Jugend). The majority of those are volunteers, while about 800 work full-time in its administration. Each local chapter (Ortsverband) maintains one or more Technische Züge (technical platoons), each consisting of one Zugtrupp (command squad), comprising four volunteers, two Bergungsgruppen (rescue units) comprising nine (first unit) to twelve (second unit) volunteers, and one to three Fachgruppen (Technical Units), comprising four to eighteen volunteers.

The main type of THW unit (about two out of three) is one of two Bergungsgruppe (1st and 2nd Rescue Groups), equipped with heavy tools like hydraulic cutting devices, chain saws, and pneumatic hammers. Their Vehicles are the Gerätekraftwagen 1 (GKW 1) for the 1st Rescue Group and the Mehrzweckkraftwagen (MzKW) or the older Gerätekraftwagen 2 (GKW 2) - which is scheduled to phased out - is for the 2nd Rescue Group.

The Fachgruppen (Technical Units) include:
  • Infrastruktur (Infrastructure),
  • Räumen (Debris Clearance),
  • Sprengen (Demolition/Blasting),
  • Elektroversorgung (Electricity Supply),
  • Beleuchtung (Illumination),
  • Wasserschaden / Pumpen (Water Damage / Pumps),
  • Wassergefahren (Water Hazards),
  • Logistik (Logistics),
  • Ölschaden (Oil Pollution),
  • Trinkwasserversorgung (Water Supply and Treatment),
  • Brückenbau (Bridge Building),
  • Führung und Kommunikation (Command, Control and Communication), and
  • Ortung (Search and Detection).

For relief in foreign countries, there are four Schnelleinsatzeinheiten Bergung Ausland or SEEBA (Rapid Deployment Unit Search and Rescue Abroad) units, able to go airborne within six hours, and five Schnelleinsatzeinheiten Wasserversorgung Ausland or SEEWA (Rapid Deployment Unit Water Supply and Treatment Abroad) units.

Services Provided

Technical Threat Prevention
  • Search and rescue
    Search and rescue
    Search and rescue is the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or imminent danger.The general field of search and rescue includes many specialty sub-fields, mostly based upon terrain considerations...

    , and salvage
  • Clearing and blasting
  • Water Rescue
  • Combat flooding and inundation
  • Area Lighting

Infrastructure Technical Support
  • Electric supply
  • Drinking water supply
  • Waste water disposal
  • Emergency Bridge work

Command and Communication, Logistics
  • Command center Establishment and operation
  • Command support
  • Creation of temporary telecommunication systems
  • Establishment and operation of logistic bases
  • Catering and care of operational staff
  • Maintenance of material, repair and maintenance work for mission equipment
  • Transportation of consumer goods for mission demands

Technical Support in the Protection of the Environment
  • Fight against oil damage
  • Water analysis

Provision of the Population
  • Electricity and drinking water provision
  • Waste water disposal
  • Establishment and equipment of emergency accommodation and collecting points with matching infrastructure

Technical Support
  • Technical help on traffic routes
  • Rescue from heights
  • Diving
  • Makeshift road works
  • Maintenance of civil protection facilities such as emergency wells and shelters.

Heads of THW

  • 1952–1955 Director Otto Lummitzsch
  • 1955–1958 Director Dr. Alexander Löfken
  • 1958–1962 Director Dr. Rudolf Schmidt
  • 1962–1977 Director Dipl.-Ing
    Engineer's degree
    An engineer's degree is an advanced academic degree in engineering that is conferred in Europe, some countries of Latin America, and a few institutions in the United States....

    . Hans Zielinski
  • 1977–1985 Director Dipl.-Ing. Hermann Ahrens
  • 1985/1986 Director Dipl.-Verw. Helmut Meier
  • 1986–2002 Director Gerd Jürgen Henkel
  • 2002–2006 President Dr. Georg Thiel
  • since 2006 President Dipl.-Ing. Albrecht Broemme


See also Conscription in Germany
Conscription in Germany
Germany had conscription for male citizens between 1956 and 2011. On 22 November 2010, the German Minister of Defence proposed to the government to put conscription into abeyance on 1 July 2011...

In Germany, military service was mandatory for adult males until 2011. Instead of joining the military for six months full-time, one of the alternatives was to join a non-combatant volunteer organisation within the German Katastrophenschutz (disaster relief) or Zivilschutz (civil defense
Civil defense
Civil defense, civil defence or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state from military attack. It uses the principles of emergency operations: prevention, mitigation, preparation, response, or emergency evacuation, and recovery...

) for a minimum of four years (this is calculated so that although serving far less time every week, in the end the number of served hours was about the same). The THW was one of those organisations, as well as volunteer fire brigades and various organisations engaged in emergency medical service.


The THW-Jugend (THW Youth) is the youth organization of the Technical Relief. It has set itself the target to introduce boys and girls from the age of ten in a playful way to the work of the THWs. The THW-Jugend is not part of the Federal Agency for Technical Relief, but is an independently registered charity. This arrangement was made in order to avoid maintaining a state youth organization.

External links

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