“While everything is bigger - and louder - here compared to Rostock, both fire departments have the same goal: to serve their community,” says Firefighter Sven Scharschmidt, who is visiting the Raleigh Fire Department for four weeks. Sven is from Raleigh’s sister city Rostock, a 200,000-inhabitant city on the German Baltic coast.
During his educational and cultural exchange experience in Raleigh, Sven is getting an overview of how the Raleigh Fire Department does business and what similarities and differences exist between the two fire departments.
Raleigh Fire Chief Herbert Griffin and Assistant Fire Chief Ian Toms created an agenda for the visit that enables Sven to learn about leadership, professional development, emergency services and administrative processes. “Today I spent time with the Fire Marshall, for instance, and yesterday I was in Greensboro with the Hazmat team,” Sven explains.
The visit to Raleigh is part of Sven’s fire chief training and completes his first year in the two-year program. He has also spent time at the German Coast Guard, a military fire department and Germany’s main center for coordinating catastrophe responses. Once he completes the program, he can serve as an assistant fire chief or a fire chief.
Sven, who has been with the Rostock Fire Department for four years, became interested in fire service when he was 10. Today he has a master’s degree in fire service, focusing on fire prevention, and he currently works at the training division, designing the educational curriculum for his department.
Leaving a Lasting Impression
During his time in Raleigh, a few things have already left a lasting impression. “People are so friendly and helpful, and no one has commented on my English, which could be better,” Sven says humbly – and in fluent English. “On the professional side, one of the things I’ve paid attention to is different construction materials. In Germany we use more stone in construction while here it seems like the prevalence of wood is higher and that impacts the resources that need to be dispatched to a fire call.”
Rostock is in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and lies in the Mecklenburgian part of the state. “That has understandably led to some inquiries about Mecklenburg County here in North Carolina and a possible connection,” Sven says.
According to Wikipedia, Mecklenburg County was named in commemoration of the marriage of King George III to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, for whom the county seat, Charlotte, is named.
Division Chief Brian Sherrill says RFD is excited to host Sven. “We want to make sure that he learns about our department and fire service in the United States, but we also benefit from hearing how things are done in Germany,” Sherrill says.
Sven describes his visit as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “I’m thankful to my department in Rostock for supporting this exchange and of course I’m extremely grateful to everyone here in Raleigh; they welcomed me from the very beginning and are taking good care of me.”
Partners Since 2009: Raleigh and Rostock
Sven’s visit can strengthen cultural ties and promote international collaboration between Raleigh and Rostock through their Sister Cities International partnership, in place since 2001.
This summer Raleigh City Council Members Jane Harrison and Mary Black visited Rostock where they participated in official events and engaged in discussions with representatives from the Rostock City Council and staff, exploring potential collaborations in the fields of tourism, cultural exchange, and environmental sustainability.