Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
AFOA Conference report: part two
Published:  22 May, 2017

Fire & Rescue covers the topics addressed at the 18th annual conference of the Airport Fire Officers Association, held in January 2017, including the growing risk of lithium-ion batteries, changes in aerodrome regulations covering emergency planning, and strategies to improve the wellbeing of firefighters.

Eric Gillett, policy specialist dangerous goods, CAA

The carriage of lithium metal and lithium-ion cells and batteries represents a growing potential risk of fire, Eric Gillett of the CAA told delegates. Faulty and abused cells can experience ‘thermal runaway’, whereby an increase in temperature leads to further increases. Hydrogen and hydrocarbons are released, causing a gaseous flammable environment in which cells can ignite and explode.

There is a risk when these items, which include batteries used in laptops and other personal electronic devices and ‘power bank’ backup batteries, are carried on aircraft. And the increasing use of such items by passengers means that carriage is growing.

The risk is greater when lithium-ion cells are fully charged, Gillett explained, and this diminishes as the amount of charge lessens. For this reason, since April 2016 lithium-ion cells and batteries shipped as cargo must be offered for transport at a state of charge not exceeding 30% of their rated capacity.

Two of the main areas of concern in cargo carriage are the shipper misclassifying the items for carriage, and the shipment of untested counterfeit goods.

When carried by passengers, personal electronic devices (PEDs) should be carried in the cabin so crew can more easily respond to a fire. However, care must be taken if cabin baggage is transferred to the hold to ensure that all spare batteries remain in the cabin.

Gillett set out a checklist of actions for cabin crew to take if there is a fire in a PED. This includes moving passengers away from the immediate area and informing the flight crew; using a fire extinguisher to knock down any flames; cooling the PED with lots of water or other non-flammable liquids; keeping a check on the PED in case of re-ignition; avoiding the use of ice to cool the PED as this could activate other neighbouring cells; and immersing the PED in water.

If the PED goes missing in a seat, he said, the passenger should be moved and the area monitored. On arrival, engineering staff should be asked to locate the device. If there is an in-flight emergency of any kind, the flight crew must inform air traffic control of any potentially hazardous goods onboard the aircraft.

Gillett pointed out that it is the duty of the airline, ground handling agent, and the airport to ensure that passengers are aware of forbidden dangerous goods. They must be informed not just at the point of purchase of the ticket, but also when the boarding pass is issued. Information that includes visual examples of dangerous goods forbidden from transport aboard an aircraft must be presented at ticket desks, check-in and boarding areas, using posters or screens.

Gillett ended his presentation by informing delegates that a range of simple-to-use fire containment and cooling bags are available, which can safely contain a thermal runaway event in the cabin. Airlines are encouraged to consider making such equipment available to cabin crew for use in such situations.

Neil Gray, principal aerodrome inspector, CAA

Like many other aspects of aerodrome operations, emergency planning and the provision of rescue and firefighting services is going through a period of change, said Neil Gray, principal aerodrome inspector for the CAA.

‘Our role as a regulator is to work alongside aerodrome operators as they plan these changes, determine which are right, and implement them when they are agreed and approved. From the perspective of the aerodrome RFFS, we need to work out how best to assess new and emerging risks and improve the way in which incidents are handled.’

A significant change that has had an impact on approximately 600 aerodromes within the European Union was the introduction in March 2014 of Commission Regulation (EU) 139/2014. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) established a four-year transition period, which ends in December 2017, during which all aerodromes within the scope of the EASA must become compliant with the new regulation.

The UK is currently ahead of the game in the transition, but there is a lot of work still to be done. As of 31 December 2016, 35 UK aerodromes have transitioned, leaving a further 15 to complete the task. All in-scope UK aerodromes are expected to be compliant with the new regulation by the end of this year. Those aerodromes that transitioned back in 2014 are now being audited against the EU regulation, which includes emergency planning and RFFS.

The UK’s EU referendum result in June has raised many questions about the UK’s future relationship with EASA and the European aviation system. ‘We are not sure yet what Brexit means, but the UK continues to be part of the European Single Market, which underpins the safety, security, and consumer protection on aerodromes across Europe,’ said Gray. He stressed the CAA’s belief that a joined-up approach was a necessity, and that the organisation wants to remain part of the aviation industry’s single market in Europe.

EASA has also introduced new acceptable means of compliance and supporting guidance material that relates to the level of rescue and firefighting protection at aerodromes. This includes the reintroduction of ‘remission’ and details of acceptable levels of RFFS for all-cargo and other non-passenger transport operations. EASA is also looking closely at new physical and medical fitness standards, to be discussed in 2017.

In addition to the changes brought about by EASA, discussions continue to be held on Speed Limit Exemptions for aerodrome RFFS when responding to incidents on the public highway, and the overriding need to ensure safety and compliance with existing rules. The third edition of CAP 699 for RFFS personnel was published during the conference.

‘It has taken a lot of hard work to cover the ground,’ Gray acknowledged. ‘The initial document was produced last year and submitted for consultation, and comments received so far indicate that the revisions have been widely welcomed.’

Rebecca Milner, business psychology consultant, ARUP, and Haydn Beynon, head of Dubai Airports Fire Service

A fit and healthy workforce is naturally going to be able to function more efficiently and effectively than an unhealthy one, but can this be quantified? That was the topic addressed by ARUP business psychology consultant Rebecca Milner and Haydn Beynon, head of Dubai Airports Fire Service. Together they presented ARUP’s detailed wellbeing survey and its practical implementation in Dubai as a proven example of how firefighter health and effectiveness can be influenced by changes in the working environment.

When considering the broad question of a healthy working environment, people often automatically focus on health and safety, but the issue is a lot more complex, according to Milner. It needs to be treated in a holistic way and must include employee wellbeing. The ARUP survey quantifies the relationship between two workplace wellbeing measures – engagement and burnout, and performance. Key factors include the effects of individual sleep cycle preferences, and the improvements made possible by identifying problems and taking action.

Beynon highlighted the potential problems faced by fire services, identifying ageing workforces, shift working, and the historic culture of working practices as among the stresses and strains suffered by employees.

ARUP's detailed survey of 327 firefighters in Dubai showed that nearly half suffered from pre-hypertension, weight conditions and/or smoked, leading to other associated problems. The solution was the implementation of new working practices, which involved instigating fixed routines, PPE, exercise, diet, rest and relaxation, monitoring, the adoption of new technology, and the enforcement of some of the new directives.

Dubai Airports also commissioned an investigation into the ergonomics and design of the offices and associated rooms at the fire service. The organisation then invested in re-designed offices, restrooms, a gymnasium, and a conference or meeting room, as well as redecorating the complex to make it more welcoming.

The results, Beynon said, included a dramatic fall in short-term sickness reporting; a significant increase in the number of job applications to join the fire service; improved staff retention; better understanding of the challenges of the job; improved morale; and a fitter and healthier team.

Milner wrapped up the presentation with a detailed checklist of how fire departments can benefit from a holistic approach to wellbeing, including training and monitoring, and a range of tips.

Oliver North, managing director, Rosenbauer UK

Rosenbauer UK’s MD Oliver North explained how the company, which is involved in the research, design, development, and manufacture of dedicated airport fire vehicles, has taken a major step forward in building a strong base to serve UK airports.

A separate UK company was formed in 2014 as a result of the purchase by the Rosenbauer Group of North Fire Limited. Rosenbauer UK is based in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, and the executive team has extensive experience in sectors directly linked to the fire service and specialist vehicle engineering.

The Panther, Rosenbauer’s crash tender, now has a dedicated service and parts supply operation in the UK backed up by a continuous investment programme. One of the first tasks of the new company was to stop sales through third parties and establish a direct, dedicated sales team. This ensures that airport fire services can deal one-to-one with the manufacturer.

The Panther is available in both 4x4 or 6x6 drive modes, and North showed a film of the vehicle undergoing rigorous trials to demonstrate its high-speed capability, manoeuvrability at speed, rough terrain and all-terrain abilities, and ergonomic cab design, which can carry the firefighting team comfortably and safely. The film reached a crescendo with the activation of two powerful and dramatic water jets.

North went on to explain the details of the range of attachments for various Rosenbauer vehicles, all of which have been developed specifically to meet the needs of airfield fire incidents of all types, sizes, and difficulty.

A special mention was made of the Panther’s Stinger HRET, which can penetrate an aircraft’s fuselage in just 0.1 seconds and enable the fastest possible fire treatment and passenger rescue.

Simon Petts, chairman of the Airport Fire Officers Association, reports from the ARFF Chief and Leadership Conference held in Las Vegas in February 2017.

Following AFOA’s invitation to the ARFF Working Group to attend our conference in 2017, a reciprocal arrangement was extended to me as the current AFOA chair to attend the ARFF conference.

This was similar to the AFOA event in many ways, targeted at strategic level leadership in the US aviation fire and rescue services and their co-responding partners. And, like AFOA, the aim is to act as a conduit for greater information sharing between fire services.

The programme featured a variety of speakers covering everything from regulatory and industry updates to organisational management and case studies. It was immediately clear that the issues faced by aviation fire and rescue services in the US mirror those in the UK, and that there is considerable duplication in our work streams.

A clear example of this came in a presentation on a vehicle roll-over at Oakland Airport in California in 2014 during a timed response exercise. The incident resulted in a long-standing member of the ARFF community leaving under medical early retirement. The speaker described the difficulty of finding information on previous roll-over events or case studies, which was frustrating when you consider the work done in the UK by the CAA, Graeme Day and others. I forwarded the document developed by this team on behalf of the UK FRS.

The conference programme also included two military aircraft incidents. One of these was the Blue Angel crash during a public air show in which Marine Captain Jeff Kuss lost his life. The incident highlighted once again the particular set of risks and emergency response challenges these events pose.

Other incidents of note covered at the conference were the American Airlines B767 catastrophic engine failure fire at Chicago O’Hare Airport in October 2016, and the FedEx MD-10 at Ft Lauderdale. At both incidents, ARFF/RFFS played a crucial part in the successful outcome.

In closing, I was invited to say a few words regarding the AFOA/UK current position and emphasise the relationship both groups are aiming to strengthen. I believe both organisations have a strong desire for greater information sharing. However, as neither has a huge pool of resources, it is vital that we take every opportunity to reduce the duplication of work, and this is something I am keen to work towards.