The Bundesanstalt Technisches Hilfswerk (THW, Federal Agency for Technical Relief) was originally founded for civil protection and the management of natural disasters. But new threats, such as the vulnerability of critical infrastructures like the electricity and water supply, or the consequences of climate change, give rise to new challenges for civil protection and disaster relief.
The THW must face up to this change, and adapt its capabilities accordingly. The Federal Government has now decided on a draft bill to change the applicable THW Law.
The new rules should provide more legal clarity and transparency. Thus, the strengthening of volunteer work, which forms part of the coalition agreement, is also being applied to the THW with its 80,000 volunteers. Arrangements for leave of absence should be slightly more flexible, to assist the volunteers. This also includes measures to re-establish operational readiness after THW missions.
Arrangements for leave of absence ensure that volunteers can take part in missions, and thereby enable the principle of volunteer work to function in civil protection. Because missions can take place at any time - they don’t just happen outside of office hours or during holidays. In this regard, the THW works closely with the employers as partners. They are refunded for the lost time of their workers. This guarantees the continued payment of wages and salaries for the volunteers deployed.
The Technisches Hilfswerk is the German civil protection and disaster relief organisation of the Federal Government. It enables the state to fulfil an important task - the protection of the population. As such, the structure of the THW is globally unique: organisationally, it is a federal agency under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. But 98 percent of the THW team work on a voluntary basis. In 668 local THW units, they dedicate their free time to civil protection and disaster relief.
When the THW helps
The THW has a diverse spectrum of missions. The rescue and technical units can, for example, stabilise buildings in danger of collapse, construct bridges, provide hospitals with an emergency power supply, or be called out on flood relief operations.
Missions all around the world
For more than 60 years, the THW has also provided technical assistance worldwide - for example after earthquakes or other natural disasters.