Behind every mask is a person
An interview with Martin
Home-loving, always ready to help and willing to take risks, Martin likes to dance the night away. When he heard about fire cancer for the first time, it took his breath away. As a respiratory protection officer at the voluntary fire brigade in Zell am Ziller, he will give everything to protect his colleagues and himself from this insidious disease. In this interview, he reveals what he is passionate about.
Martin, you live where other people spend their holidays! The Ziller Valley in Tyrol, Austria. What do you most appreciate about the area?
I most appreciate the mountains and the beautiful views. I like to go walking with my family or friends and I enjoy skiing and climbing via ferratas.
Could you imagine being happy living anywhere else?
No, the Ziller Valley is the only place for me! It's where I was born and my whole family lives here. I live with my wife and our 5-year-old son and my parents and my brother live really close by.
Martin, your job title is ‘cargo mover’. How often do you have to explain to people what you actually do?
Very! I move containers and articulated lorry trailers around the company site. I drive into a building with my empty lorry and drive out with it full! The full trailers are then picked up from our site. So really we could just say that I work in warehouse logistics.
How long have you been in the fire service and what made you join?
I've been in the fire service since I was 12! My dad was a commander in Ried voluntary fire service in the Ziller Valley. Life in the fire service has been with me from day one! It's a natural part of life when you grow up with it. I like the camaraderie and helping others. When the pager goes, you think of the person who needs your help.
What do you like about being the respiratory protection nominee?
I like cleaning, disinfecting and inspecting the equipment after every call-out. And I check the six regulators once a month in addition to that. That means that me and my colleagues are well protected and our two watches of three firefighters each are always ready to be called out. We have a total of 100 active members. 37 of us wear BA masks, plus 22 in the youth fire service. Everyone is incredibly committed.
As a firefighter, how do you protect yourself from cancer risk on call-outs and in the SCBA workshop? Cancer risk is much higher for firefighters than it is for the general population, after all.
I had never heard about fire increasing cancer risk until I started dealing with Meiko. We hear very little about it in Tyrol. But now I know how important it is to separate the clean and dirty areas of the SCBA workshop and to properly disinfect the respiratory protective equipment. We try to apply all this as well as we can in our fire service, but our SCBA workshop is only 3 m x 4 m. Once worn, our uniforms go to a specialist laundry in Ramsau for cleaning. The respiratory protective equipment goes into a large plastic bag and is vacuum sealed, then stored in a black container to come to me in the SCBA workshop where I clean and disinfect it using one of the three programmes on the Meiko TopClean M. I select the programme based on how dirty the equipment is.
How do you help your colleagues to protect themselves?
As I said, cancer risk isn't often discussed here.
How do you handle hygiene on call-outs in your fire service?
We send the PPE (personal protective equipment) to the external laundry, tidy up, and go home for a shower.
Don't you have showers at the fire station?
We do, but we still go home for our showers.
So it's really good that Meiko is raising awareness of cancer risk for firefighters with the ‘Behind every mask is a person’ campaign.
Absolutely. I think it needs to be louder in the public consciousness – and public discourse! It is something that needs be dealt with much more extensively to put us on the right path. Awareness is too low – even my own.
‘I had never heard about fire increasing cancer risk until I started dealing with Meiko. We hear very little about it in Tyrol. But now I know how important it is to separate the clean and dirty areas of the SCBA workshop and to properly disinfect the respiratory protective equipment.’
What is on your favourite Spotify playlist?
Schlager & folk music, things like Helene Fischer and the Zillertaler Schürzenjäger.
Seriously? But you're so young!
Yeah, I'm 30. Most young people in the rural areas listen to this kind of music. We go to a
party or a ball, drink two or three beers and dance to folk music and schlager.
What celebrity would you like to meet?
Not Helene Fischer?
That would be nice if it was in private. I've seen her in concert twice, one at the Olympiastadion in Munich and once at the Stadthalle in Vienna.
What is the highest-risk thing you've ever done?
I bungee jumped from the Europa Bridge in Innsbruck. It's 192 m high. That's a long time ago now. I think it was 2013.
Would you do it again?
We started on the theme of holidays. Let's end on that note, too. Martin, where did you go for your last holiday and where would you like to go on holiday?
For our last holiday, we went to Velden am Wörther See in Carinthia, Austria. We enjoyed the water and the land. I'm sure we'll spend our next holiday in the Ziller Valley again. You don't always have to travel!
Do you not like to see something different occasionally?
Yeah, Ibiza and Gran Canaria were beautiful, too. But a week was enough. Then I wanted to come home.