In February of this year I was asked to speak at the 2016 ARFF Chief and Leadership School in Orlando, Florida and I spoke about Emergency Management for Airport Incidents. The emergency preparedness operations at an airport falls into three major components; first is the planning and training, second is the actual response to incidents and third is review or an incident for lessons learned.
The planning and training operations at all airports is a 24/7 operation. Most airports find themselves in the position where the only way they are able to train on certain aircraft is to do it at night either between flights or while the aircraft is in a hanger for maintenance. If you look at the hours required for annual training and the actual numbers of hours worked by an ARFF fire fighter they almost equal. A training officer has the night mare of keeping track of all the personnel and making sure between holidays, vacations, sick and injury that everyone gets all the required training.
Also rolled into the planning side of the house is the emergency management planning for airport and all its customers. In the past 20 years ARFF has gone from dealing with just airplane crashes to now including hazardous materials incidents on planes and in the buildings on the airport that are under their jurisdiction, building and vehicle fires, medical emergencies including active shoots situations and much more. A good planner will take the time to look at the history of events at that airport and similar airport to see what should be in the crew chief’s playbook for when something does happen. We also need to include planning for weather related incidents like hurricanes, tornados, floods and server thunderstorms that can shut down an airport for hours or even days. What about spills and fires in the fuel storage facility and the associated problems that will bring like can the airport remain open? Can the airport still meet its index for ARFF coverage if trucks are tied up in the fuel farm and if they used foam how fast can you get replacement foam? What is your airports plan for a terrorist attack? How much of your ARFF manpower will you be able to commit to the incident and still keep the air side operational? Have you drilled with your mutual aid responders for EMS on where to respond and stage so that they all do not pile into the scene at the same time and bottle neck traffic to the point nothing moves and patients are trapped on the roadways. Are your EMS personnel going to make entry into the building involved with law enforcement to assist with the treating patients, do they have the proper PPE and training for the entry? What if the terrorist attack involves airplanes off the airport; what is your plan to assist your mutual partners, what are your going to send to the scene, are you able to send on duty chief officers, can you send ARFF trucks to that location safety over the road, do you have roads mapped out that your ARFF truck and safely travel with no fear of bridge load or height restrictions?
According to airplane crash statics 25% of the plane crashes occur on take-off and 58% occur on approach and landing. You need to have plans in place with those communities around the airport that fall under the flight paths to the airport. If draw two circles around your airport and figure out what a 3 minute from take-off circle would be and the other would be 8 minutes to landing would be and those are the 2 major time/distance areas that your planning should be designed around. What if within those circles you have a large water hazard like many of the coastal airport that a plane could possibly land or crash into, what additional planning and resources will you need to factor into the emergency plans. What resources to you have at the airport for your water side exposure, what is available with your mutual aid partners and other agencies and have you developed one of your drills to test these components of your plan.
Command and control of any incident is an important factor that needs to be discussed and trained on prior to an actual event. All the players at all levels need to know who is in charge and who is responsible for what parts of the operations and knowing that this can and will change as the event progresses. During your drills is a great time to move up some of your junior officers into positions of command to give them the experience they will need and we all know that these events do not always happen during the Monday –Friday 9-5 operations so these officers will most likely be the ones handling the event until the senior officers have been recalled. What additional off airport resource are you going to be requesting on automatic mutual aid agreements? Do you want your mutual aid partners to send you all engine companies for water supply or would like some of them to send you heavy rescues with highly training personnel on board? The crew chiefs and chief officers need to understand what is available in the communities around them that can be requested to an incident like foam trucks and technical rescue vehicles; this is what you can find out from table top exercises but asking what can you send that could be of use at this type of incident. What about communications, how are you going to communicate with all the different operational personnel on the airport from ARFF, airlines, operations, police and EMS? What about your mutual aid partners and the whole alphabet soup of local, state and federal agencies that will be arriving shortly to your invitation?
As a chief officer I have a question that always kept repeating during my size up of a situation and that was “Enough”; meaning do I have Enough equipment, personnel, vehicles, foam, water and support to handle this incident? A chief officer also needs to understand that when your request a resource it is not just going show up in a few minutes, it may take hours to get some specialized equipment to an incident. Through the practice of full scale exercises you will find out what is available in your area and how long it going to take to get there. You want to try and keep your training scenarios as try to life as possible and test your new procedures and equipment to help ensure that it will work like you planned it to. During your drills you will want to invite all of the known support agencies that you would expect to see at an actual event and there can be over 20-30 different groups involved so make sure you have a large enough venue to handle them. One group that needs to be invited as a player as well as an observer should be the media. Let the media film the event to show the good work you are doing but let them do mock interviews of some of your staff members to get the camera time and practice that they need.
One of the final things you need to do after a drill or actual event is the paperwork. An After Action Report (AAR) should be written to review the event and talk about all the great things that work and to find the lessons learned and discuss those things that went bad and start the conversation on how to best fix them. A copy of the AAR should be sent to all the players and to ask them to review it to see if there was anything missing and asking for their comments as to how to improve the plan for the next time.
Take the time and review the FAA document AC 150/5200-31 which spells out what your Airport Emergency Plan should include. I was not able to include all of the topics in this short article but you can find more information there.
I have include on the magazine’s website a AC 150/5200-31 check list form that is 33 pages long that will help you make sure you have covered all the topics and included them in your plan. Thank you and be safe!
For more information, go to www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Advisory_Circular/150_5200_31c_consolidated.pdf