IFSJ Exclusive: Preparing for the potential

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Neil Crosby, Middle East Aviation Emergency Training Correspondent, talks preparing for all outcomes

No matter where in the world you currently operate there is no more developing and more vibrant than the UAE. The speed at which it is consistently changing a advancing towards it future is remarkable and exciting to witness. Its very evolution from that of fifty years ago to the current day is astounding. Growth, population and infrastructure come coupled to engineering and wealth. The diversity of the cultures and populous is vibrant and attractive to those aiming to be apart of its future.

This metamorphosis of such a region brings with it opportunity and challenge, challenge to build, challenge to growth and challenge to compete. The UAE is synonymous with the intention towards perfection and presence. Its very vision is one of being the very best that can be offered, in lifestyle, accommodation, health and of course its safety, these are accolades bestowed by those thriving in the region or by those who have enjoyed the benefits of visiting lavish localities it has to offer. 

Heat stress

From every angle the evidence of growth and success can be seen, however this does not come with ease or without challenge. The very geographical location presents its own challenges from weather, sun, sand, heat or wind. Emergency services must consider this impact and consider they do.

Engagement in temperatures of 45 degrees or more in the summer months and 35 possibly in the evening hours hamper services to operate effectively or to conduct training. The occupations of those engaged must be monitored with consistent attention to prevent dehydration or exhaustion.

Every aspect of the service during events has an enlarged capacity for consideration due to heat, vehicle and appliance operating temperatures over prolong periods, media resources, equipment inoperability, firefighting actions and fire growth, flammable vapours and fire gas movement, all such occurrences agitate any event loading the considerations of any Incident Commander. The consistently changing locations which emergency services must respond change at a frequency and dimension difficult to imagine.

The city sky lines change almost overnight and the colossal enormity of the structures reach vertically or laterally in all directions. Emergency services must be topically and geographically familiar with their response areas, from a hazard perspective, what may be held within and what could to be to be expected. Typography, risk response, and risk register must become daily appraisals to be proactive as opposed to reactive.

Parking areas in the main are ventilated. However this will not prevent the growth and movement of fire gases within a structure. The challenge to the emergency service will be in the form of access, fuel loading and sheer volume of vehicles parked in close proximity.

Vehicles and their design are captivating to the motorist and to their owner, to an emergency service member, a hazard, a risk, or a dangerous challenge which must be approached in the most considered method. Simple entry or exit of the occupant is not always a straightforward as one would imagine. SUV vehicles have a vast selection of options, their construction materials, seating, and safety or protection systems all pose hazards to the uneducated or the initiated.

The aviation sector

There is one final area in which we must consider a potential: Aviation. Aviation is the most fundamentally changing areas for occupation within the region.  Over the last fifty years there has been a monumental growth in air travel and concept design.

The UAE airports support essentially all that the UAE is and has been to know to have become. Their major airports are fundamentally the beating heart of the UAE and Dubai and the surrounding locations. Their airports consistently brake records of achievement and challenges its self to be the most visual and efficient airports in the world. The aircraft traffic they handle is without question some of the most prominent and efficient the aviation sector has to offer.

Passenger volume is intended to breach 58 million within 2022 and striving to return to the pre Covid figures within 2023. It supports 238 airports, in 227 cities form 102 counties. 

The aviation sector has had to meet numerous challenges in the form of growth, location, expansion, experience, infrastructure, regulation, the weather and more over the vision and the need to succeed.  The sector is dynamic to say the very least, consistently changing, re-evaluating, personally challenging and consistently reacting to market and world forces.  The aerodromes also carries upon their shoulders the knowledge that the region is essentially feeds its sources. Should an event take place at an aerodrome the ripples emanate from the source to far wide reaching locations.

Aircraft movements take place at a frequency of departure and arrival at the most busy of periods at two minute intervals utilising the synchronicity of two runways simultaneously. It is not unusual to have ten aircraft taxiing or manoeuvring at the same time. Passenger loads on the largest aircraft frequency are in the range of six hundred occupants per rotation.

The ripples from an event will be felt the world over should the incident not be correctly handled. Approaching flights, departing flights, aircraft wishing to depart their country unable to arrive at their intended destination, slot allocations and interconnecting flights using the airport as a hub to connect to final destinations all may be impacted during any potential operational event. With this is an ever-present pressure to succeed and to overcome.

Every member of the aerodrome emergency service carries a shared responsibility to perform, to remain competent and operational compliant. It is essential they must remain engaged in all areas of occupation relating to their operational response. The complexity of the location and the frequency of movements dictate that operational fire service members must be appropriately qualified and certificated to for fill their operational responsibilities without restraint.

The constant need to train and to ensure an effective response is relentless. Each and every day there is a need to see a learning opportunity or to educate members on their growing potential risk. To say you know enough, or to believe you can do enough, is never enough.

Aircraft firefighting

Aircraft firefighting is without question one of the most technical fields of occupation, knowledge of the rescue and firefighting equipment provided to meet the risk are extraordinarily technical in their own right and the methods of firefighting based on the aircraft potentially involved are on a scale based around physics, chemical and structural engineering.        

Through developmental changes to the complexities of aerodrome infrastructures, aircraft, and the localities faced by the new generation of fire service members, the rescue and firefighting service must have a more considered approach to command decision making when applying the use of fire fighting and tactical ventilation.

Ventilation can facilitate the passage of ‘wet air’ through the induction of water spray, in elevated locations to infuse and create rapid reductions in compartment temperature growth. The synchronicity of simultaneous applications involves high level intelligent firefighting understanding and an incident command structure with increased tactical advantages.

Incidents must be considered both on and off aerodrome and access to any such incident must be accomplished within the defined response time. Multi-agency interoperability is essential in order to be successful at the scene of operations and the close cohesive working relationship established by all responding services. 

All these and many more considerations must take place in the most challenging of environmental weather conditions or working locations. Crews may be engaged for long and protracted periods of time and successful emergency planning will ensure a successful conclusion at any potential incident location.

There should be a more immersive programme of interoperability within all emergency service within the UAE with one aim, to become the very best the region can provide. They should strive towards the sharing of information, technical excellence and more importantly the overall ability to respond.

There is a wealth of knowledge and experience within the UAE, from overseas external influence, or subject matter experts, previous experience and local intent to succeed. The never-ending vision to demonstrate improvement and to embrace all that could be ahead. The road ahead is bright and yet it will be consistently challenging to those who strive for excellence.

The emergency services must embrace this challenge and many more, with the vision of the UAE and to continue on this journey no matter how difficult or diverse it may be. Draw on the expertise available, learn from the past to build for the future, embrace challenge and strive as an emergency community to prepare for the potential by being prepared. 

This article was originally published in the January edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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