Career Service

As a safety engineer to the professional fire service

The chief fire director Oliver Tittmann leads the professional fire service Duisburg

"I entered into the volunteer fire service very early", says Oliver Tittmann, "since I can think, the fire service is exciting for me". But the change in his career aspiration came purely by hazard. The fire service Hamburg informed about the occupations all around the topics of rescuing - extinguishing - salvaging - protecting in a consultation container on an open day. With the idea in his mind, to one day work in the field of the ambulance service, Tittmann speaks with the consultants, who recommend him a study program through which he could enter into the professional fire service through a leading position. The young man who comes out of the Sauerland immediately proceeds to action. He visits a job information center already in the next day, to get informed about the various engineering professions. "It was truly a foreign world for me, because I actually had a completly different life plan. I wanted to become an ambulanceman and a paramedic and then enter into the professional fire service in the career group 1." But the information he got in Hamburg, lead him to think for the first time about additional possibilities through studying. Oliver Tittmann informs himself extensively and inclines towards safety engineering.The variety of study courses in this specialty fascinate him the most. "I am not the type of mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, mathematician or physician. Safety engineering offers the full package. Everything is included", he explains and for his career aspiration to go to the professional fire service he can even specialize himself in the fields of fire safety and explosion control.

Studying in Wuppertal

The decision is made very fast and Tittmann registers in Wuppertal. "I never regretted this!" He is fascinated by the university life from the get go. "I think, the University of Wuppertal is huge, this is what I also told everyone. It has the perfect size, you are not only a number. The faculties are not too big, the program is amazing and everything around it is great." He feels being cared for as a student in a very positive way and embraces many additional offerings, e.g. in the field of occupational safety.

After his studies, he also needed a bit of luck since the job offerings for fire trainees at the professional fire service are very scarce. Due to the procedure in his first job interview, he painfully had to experience which qualities are expected in an introductory meeting. "I wen there with the imagination, I am a volunteer fireman, I am an ambulanceman and I have a drive license in class 2. They are only waiting for me", he laughingly says and successfully implements the gained experiences in his next meeting in Duisburg. "The job interview here, in Duisburg, proceeded perfectly and I was immediately accepted after the job interview." In April 2002 he untertook the position as a fire trainee in the city in the Ruhr area with about five thousand inhabitants.

2014 he comes very close to his aim. Tittmann firstly takes on the direction of the professional fire service Duisburg commissarialy , and since 2015 he leads the department under full authority.

100,000 operations per year

The number of operations per year on average are stunning. "The fire service Duisburg has over one hundred thousands operations per year, including the ambulance service and the fire prevention" the 43-year-old explains, "with regards to the direction, the so-called directorate, which I share with ten other colleagues, I approximately go out with 60 to 80 operations per year. This are about 36 to 40 shifts in the direction duty." With this enormous operation effort the volunteer fire service is indispensable. "A professional fire service is not able to function without a volunteer fire service. We are not able to handle the daily routine or the everyday operations - even not comprehensively", he emphasizes, "but right there, where it is getting bigger and more specific, we need the volunteer fire service." Amongst those are even special task forces for decontamination, like the fire fighting unit from Homberg, who are a so-calles decon-unit. "They are incredibly efficient", the director praises. "We have a volunteers' team including the youth fire service and a support department with about 1,000 volunteers in Duisburg. The requirements for a modern fire service are only managable mutually."


The 24-hour-service at the professional fire service has been there ever since. Once being all around the clock at the working place, there are differences in the operation or direction service. In the first one, Tittmann says, "there are colleagues who are driving the big fire trucks. They have a regulated daily routine. From the takeover of the vehicle, the maintenance of the vehicle, the exercise service on-site and outside, up to sports activitities and in addition up the operations." In the direction service he, as a director, firstly works on all of the office work, holds appointments, conducts conversations - up until the radio pager notifies an alarm. "Then I am gone", he says short and quick. In contrary to the volunteer fire service , he is then directly on the spot, has access to his vehicles and directly starts. The evenings are shaped by the on-call service. "You can do sports, watch a movie or engage into conversations with colleagues at the control station." This service is priceless for the team spirit of the fire service, because "I have to be able to rely on my colleagues with one hundred percent. This 24-hour-service builds family-like relations. Through that I never lose my ground contact and I am always informed about what happens in the fire service."

The female percentage is still very low

With 0.4 percent the female representation is still very low. It is not much better at the volunteer fire service with 8 percent. "It is still a male domain und very few females apply", Timmann commiserates. One of the big hurdles is the general sports test, which many women do not pass. Although some exercises have been abolished in cooperation with the Sport University Cologne, "pull-ups and push-ups are something, that women are not able to do as good as men due to their physiology as we were told by the Sport University" and got replaced by the so-called Beugehang, many women still do not pass the test. "But those women, that are with us and have the will to come to the fire service are great. They benefit us a lot. They are crucial for the system" he summarizes.

One tip: application training

Tittmann advises all prospective safety engineers to participate on application trainings still during their studies. The Career Service of the University of Wuppertal offers such events in regular periods. "What I can recommend as well", he advises, "is making use of every possibility that the study program offers. I myself e.g. did the degree as a "Specialist in Occupational Safety" and the marks to qualify as a radiation protection officer, on the side. Through that you are positioned very well. Many of the contents that I was given during my study of safety engineering, are contents that I really need in my daily life because it was so broadly based. And I have an easy start everywhere. You have to be willing to sometimes accept longer distances. And when a safety engineer is up to being at the fire service", he says in the end, "it is the most amazing job in the world. I think my job is amazing."

The study program safety engineering at University of Wuppertal imparts skills that go far beyond the usual engineering education and convey a safety-related technical knowledge which is expressed in several facets of the population safeguarding, occupational safety, environmental protection and quality engineering.

Further information on

Uwe Blass (Interview on 18.09.2019)

The studied safety engineer Oliver Tittmann is the chief fire director at the professional fire service Duisburg since 2015.

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