IFSJ Influencer: Mark Buckingham, Head of Emergency Preparedness, Abu Dhabi Airports

Share this content

Head of Emergency Preparedness at Abu Dhabi Airports, Mark Buckingham, shares his views views and predictions for the fire and safety industry for the year ahead

I have been lucky in my career to have been exposed to many different industries, governances, and indeed states – and have learned a lot from all.  As I look at the next 12 months and beyond, I, personally cannot be anything but excited about what things lay in store, and the strategic practices that I believe the industry needs to adapt to. For me, some of the main challenges are around sustainability led development.

None of us are far from the sustainability conversation, as the world is becoming aware of the changes it needs to make and invests in the technology and the thinking to do so. From a fire and safety perspective, some of these initiatives bring new hazards – and as the initiatives are realized within our businesses, our infrastructure, and our way of life, then there is a need for Fire and Safety professionals to be embedded in the planning and delivery of the outputs. 

A great example is the emergence of the Lithium battery and its integration into vehicles. At present, the fire industry as a whole is working hard to fully understand the best way of dealing with the hazards presented by an incident, typically a fire, involving such vehicles. The hazards are very different to conventional fuels:  toxicity of the gasses emitted when involved in fire, fire intensity, thermal runaway, increased hazard when on charge, to name but a few.

In a recent project that I was involved in where the hazards and necessary firefighting considerations were highlighted, it became evident that the electrification project within the business – an airport – needed total review, and should have involved fire professionals from the start.

When you consider an airport, electrification of airside vehicles is developing exponentially, not to mention the move toward autonomous technology, which will only add to the complexity. Other high hazard industries are beset with similar challenges.

The need to help fire professionals understand some process safety techniques, such as HAZID and HAZOP becomes essential, as inevitably, they are going to need to be at the forefront of the integration of new technologies like this.  With this comes the development of communication skillsets beyond the relative comfort of ‘the fire community’, learning to help a broader community understand the key factors to ensure that fire and safety are integrated earlier into the implementation of such step changing technologies.

This need to adapt the communication and stakeholder management skill set beyond the traditional fire community ‘comfort zone’ I believe is critical. Some will relish this opportunity, and some will feel less comfortable – so maybe we are beginning to redefine some of the core attributes that we ask our fire professionals to have at the outset of their careers and to acquire as they progress.  I believe the challenges for our industry are as poignant as they ever have been, but I am of the opinion that the present set put us in the middle of a step change.

About the influencer

Mark Buckingham is an industry professional of some 27 years, having started his career with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service in the UK.  Progressing through the ranks to Station Officer, he took the opportunity to diversify his fire career by taking a role as Deputy Senior Officer at Luton Airport.  Forced changes over the next few years saw him achieve approval to operate a Civil Aviation Fire Training College in the UK, before moving to the UAE, operating initially an Emergency Response contract in an Industrial mega project.  Since July 2022, Mark has been developing the Emergency Planning function within the 5 airports of the Abu Dhabi Airport Company.

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

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox