Alcohol ban eased for volunteer firefighters

Getting enough volunteers together to tackle a blaze can sometimes prove a problem Keystone

Members of Switzerland’s volunteer firefighter service will be allowed to tackle blazes after consuming moderate amounts of alcohol from next year. The change in the law will allow more community rescue workers to spring into action in emergencies. 

This content was published on October 26, 2016 with agencies

Switzerland’s firefighting service operates under a militia system with volunteers manning the pumps in each community. On duty or standby personnel are rotated, but there is sometimes the need to boost numbers in the event of major events.

The current law prohibits firefighters answering the call to duty if their blood alcohol level exceeds 0.1%. But the strictness of this regulation prevents many off-duty emergency volunteers from attending fires or other emergencies.

From January 1 next year, the Federal Roads Office has decided to raise the blood alcohol limit to 0.5% - only for off-duty volunteers - in order to tackle this problem.

"This change is necessary as rescue and disaster relief organisations today are increasingly dependent on people who are not on duty or on standby," it said in a statement on Wednesday. "The government decision addresses the need for optimum recruitment [of volunteers] for unexpected rescue operations."

"With the ban, theoretically it would have been impossible for somebody enjoying even a nice glass of red wine during the Christmas holidays to fulfill their duty in the event of an emergency," Peter Wullschleger, a Zurich emergency services commander, told Reuters news agency.

The new limits will also apply to heavy goods vehicles with a top speed of 45kmph as they are deemed too slow to pose a serious threat to safety.

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