Individualization is one of the dominant megatrends of today. People are increasingly striving to fulfill individual life paths that go hand in hand with the desire for more autonomy and self-determination. This trend is mainly driven by technological advances – such as digitization, connectivity, Internet of Things, 3D printing, big data, etc. – although there is now almost no area of life where individualized and customized products and services are unthinkable. From cereals to sneakers to cars – the customer can already personalize these things with individual configurators according to personal desires and needs, and all without elaborate special manufacturing by the producer.

Of course, individualization has also made its way into the fire department sector, and at this point is not just limited in the sense that every fire truck is individually configured and equipped according to the personal wishes of the fire department. For example, vehicles can automatically adjust to the respective driver – from the driver’s seat position to the display and the driving behavior itself. This individual adaptation could be especially useful for drivers of volunteer fire departments who often do not have frequent driving experience.

As the 3D printing process and the ability to print on demand becomes more cost-effective, it will be easier to find spare parts even after more than 20 years. New technologies like the 3D printing process will also allow for customized personal protection equipment, like helmets and boots, adapted to the shape of the individual body. Integrated sensors in the clothing can also be used to transmit various measurement data such as physiological values or telemetry data from the respirator use of the respective emergency crew to a command post, where they can be monitored to protect the emergency services and recorded for later evaluation.

The fact that not only the equipment, vehicles, and fire & safety equipment are more complex, but also the operational scenarios of the fire departments are more versatile, means that the training and further education of emergency personnel from the classic “scattergun approach,” which requires everyone to know a bit about everything, is something to be reconsidered. For example, individualized training that passes specialized knowledge on to a handful of firefighters could also increase in the form of e-learning tools at the fire departments.

Individualization also has an influence on volunteer work, however. While in the past collective values such as charity and service inspired young people to become involved in volunteer firefighting, the change in values to “enjoy life and leisure” is sometimes challenging in terms of recruiting young people to become involved in volunteer work.
The question often arises: How can personal development be combined with a benefit for society and for oneself?