10 questions..

Michael Capeder, quality assurance specialist

Michael Capeder has been working for RhB as a quality assurance specialist for 7 years now. He has also been a member of the voluntary fire service in Chur for the last 17 years. Today, he has taken the time to answer our questions for the blog.

Tanja Thaler, Communications expert, 26. May 2020

1 Michael, recently a water pipe burst in the building where I live and the fire service had to come out at about 9:45 am. Later I found out that you were one of the firefighters who came to pump out the water. What RhB task did you have to interrupt for this assignment?

That morning I had an online training session using "Microsoft Teams". The instructor had just finished explaining a sequence and asked whether we wanted a coffee break. That was when I saw the alarm on my mobile phone to say we had a burst pipe. 

I knew the course would be recorded, so I told her I had to leave for a while. I put down the headphones, grabbed my jacket and made a hasty departure for the fire station.

2 How long did this assignment last and were you able to simply continue your work as usual afterwards? Do you generally find that difficult?

Before I can answer the question, I would like to briefly explain how the Chur fire brigade is organised: a total of about 90 people (women and men) perform voluntary fire service in the town of Chur. We're divided into three different groups when it comes to reacting to alarms. That means you're on call every third month. In addition, there are alarm groups for fire alarm systems, aerial rescue and road rescue.

An alarm group was set up for this operation (about 20 to 25 people). After about two hours, some of us were surplus to requirements and so could return to work or go home. It took the remaining firefighters about another four hours to pump out all the water.

It was no trouble for me to pick up my work again as soon as I arrived back. But sometimes you come back from an assignment that you cannot get out of your head. Especially in the case of larger fires that have lasted a long time or when people have to be rescued.

3 Is there anything special you need to take to the office so that you are always immediately ready for action if you are alerted?

There is no rule that says you have to be mobile all hours of the day and night. For example, I could get to the fire station easily on foot, but that would take too long. I don’t just have a car, but also a scooter. Since I ride it to work every day, I also ride my scooter to the station if there is an alarm.

4 How are you informed if there is an alarm?

In Chur, every firefighter has a pager. If there is an alarm, I receive an SMS on my mobile phone, followed by a phone call and about 10 seconds later there is an alarm on my pager. That sounds a lot, but you might not have any reception on your mobile phone if you are in a basement (for example an underground car park) and that's what the pager is for. With this "outdated" means of communication, you have reception practically everywhere in the world.

5 What do you do if you are alerted in the middle of a meeting or an important phone call and need to leave work immediately?

I say that I have an alarm and then have to judge for myself whether I can go or not. Anyone I have ever dealt with has always been very understanding if I was called out. 

6 Is it possible that you are not able to participate in an alarm because your work does not allow it?

Of course. That has happened several times and is bound to happen again in the future. My employer is RhB and has top priority. Since I do not work in tours, it is much easier to leave my workplace if there is an alarm. However, I then have to make up for the time lost to ensure I do work my target hours.

7 How often do you have to leave in the middle of a working day because there is an alarm?

That's a difficult question to answer really. There are around 150 alarms in Chur every year. Since I don’t actually take part in every alarm, I would say that I have to leave work in the middle of the day about twice a month.

8 What was your strangest, funniest, most impressive, most exciting or even saddest assignment for the fire service?

There are several stories I could tell you for each of those adjectives. But I’ll be brief and have chosen the funniest and most impressive assignment:

One spring, a few years ago, a fire was reported in a field next to the main road towards Araschgen. When I got there, I was told to construct two pressure hoses from the coupling with two "new recruits". That means: a large water pipe is built from the fire engine to a coupling. From then on, smaller pressure hoses are built for extinguishing.
The new, palpably nervous colleagues each fetched a pressure hose, connected it to the coupling and rolled out the hose. Instead of each attaching a jet pipe at the end of the hose for extinguishing, they connected the two pressure hoses to each other. I had to laugh and asked the two of them how exactly they were going to extinguish the fire. They realised their mistake and installed one jet pipe per pressure hose and put out the fire.

The most impressive fire was the PostBus fire last year. That really showed us just how much power a fire can actually have. 

9 Why are you involved in the voluntary fire service?

It started out being pure curiosity. I wanted to go there because some of my friends did. And, over time, my curiosity became a hobby that made it possible for me to learn a lot about dealing with fire. It’s thrilling to see just how extensive the work in the fire service is and to realise that you are in fact never finished training.

10 Can you draw any parallels between your work for the fire service and your work at RhB?

There are lots of parallels. Cross-business cooperation at RhB works the same way as teamwork in the fire service. In both areas you would have to say that, “together we are strong”. And then there is the fact that you are constantly having to adapt to new situations. At RhB we experience seasonal fluctuations and have to improve constantly. The same applies to the fire service. With every exercise and every task, you learn and improve.

Copyright: Mattias Nutt

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