Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
A total risk solution
Published:  10 June, 2009

Airport operations are extraordinarily complex and every aspect of operations, safety and security needs to be seamlessly integrated.  Assets have to be accurately logged and monitored, legislative compliance must be assured, and responsibilities need to be clear-cut.  Colin Simpson, Chairman of the International Aviation Fire Protection Association, outlines a new initiative that the IAFPA is pioneering with the airside team at one of the largest airports in the world.



When the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was introduced in the UK, the IAFPA was concerned that this would place an enormous burden on airport managements.  Time has proven this apprehension to be well founded.

What was needed was a robust solution that ensured that the correct “responsible person” was clearly identified and recorded for each and every airport activity and asset. The assessors conducting the fire risk would have to have some form of realistic accreditation and have a thorough understanding of the airport environment.  With such a diversity of locations and operations, and with such high-value mission-critical assets, the solution would have to be easily tailored to each airport’s precise circumstances and requirements.

We discussed our thoughts at length with John Trew, Airport Fire Manager at the BAA Heathrow and discovered that we shared many of the same concerns and aspirations.  In common with the experience of many airport operators, the Fire Safety Order had generated reams of pages of risk assessments that could not be easily interrogated, interpreted or integrated one with another.

A joint IAFPA/BAA search for a more sophisticated and interactive solution led us to meet with the CEO of Kingfell Plc, one of the country’s leading fire engineering and crisis response and management consultancies. Paul Bryant had authored British Standards’ PAS [Publically Available Specification] 911 on fire strategies.  His company had also developed an incident control and analysis programme called iCAP that looked as though it could form the basis of a workable airport-wide solution.


The iCAP solution

iCAP was developed by Kingfell in response to the number of clients that were becoming increasingly aware of the need to manage all of their risks, not just fire, and integrate these into a single, workable crisis management solution. It applies the philosophy and many of the analysis techniques that have been successfully employed in the fire safety field for a number of years.

iCAP contains collated and readily available information on a multitude of potential incident scenarios and successful crisis management and control strategies. This provides the iCAP user with real-time assistance throughout an emergency in a host of areas, from liaising with the local authorities and emergency services to establishing and maintaining appropriate media relations. A number of iCAP solutions have been devised for clients in different sectors.


System overview

This Internet-based programme has a number of useful features.  The programme is fully scalable, so would be a universal solution that would work equally well for both large and small sites. Demonstrations showed that it also provides real-time tracking of actions, communications, and progress, stores all of the critical information needed to monitor assets or respond to a crisis and does not require any unique software, specialist knowledge or extensive user training.

A more detailed evaluation of the programme highlighted a number of airport-relevant features. Every asset could be easily identified and plotted on a mapping system, from where asset records could be located and relevant events relating to any of them could be flagged-up. The information held on any asset could include compliance plans, evacuation strategies, statutory licenses – such as petroleum licences – and work routines.  There was also the facility to store any number of photographs of the particular asset and the overall airport.

An alerting green/amber/red “traffic light” identification system made it possible to view and rank the importance of all “significant findings” and track their progress through to satisfactory completion.  The programme was also found to be a safe central depository for operational fire safety, security, and health and safety procedures, enabling them to be accessed by staff with the appropriate security clearance and audited during or following a crisis.  With the stored information available in an instant, a method of “asset stewardship” was able to be indexed and viewed dynamically.

Significantly, all of this information could be accessed by approved personnel from anywhere in the world, and an email list or PDF of any significant findings could be in the hands of the on-site responsible person or competent person within minutes.


Solution development

The first task for the airside team at BAA Heathrow, the IAFPA and Kingfell was to establish a number of strategic organisational goals.

BAA’s John Trew summarised these under four headings: help; improve; deliver; and save.  “Help”, in the form of the shortening of effective emergency response times, the protection of lives and airport assets, and the maintenance of a consistent approach to fire risk assessments and asset stewardship.  “Improve” goals included the shortening of post-incident recovery times, greater efficiency in service delivery and faster maintenance turnaround times.  In relation to “deliver”, Trew identified the need to ensure the delivery of the right people and resources to the right location at the right time. Finally, in the “save” box he identified the need to cut costs, avoid wasting effort and doing away with unnecessary resources.

However, while the direction of the development programme has been guided by BAA’s requirements and working practices, the solution that is now undergoing its final field trials has been devised to suit any airport environment.

Following the loading of pre-inspection details, completed risk assessments are added to the programme – which has now been named iCAP FRA – via an Internet connection, where they populate the database in readiness for interrogation by the airport’s fire, health and safety and security management.  The information contained in the risk assessments is then used to create particular asset records, or update them.  This ensures that there is a comprehensive and complete overview of every asset, together with its precise location, which can be seen in context on the programme’s site map, plus contact details of the now clearly identified responsible person. To enable this information to be printed for off-line use, it can also be accessed in a Microsoft Excel-style tabulated format.

A “Fire Safety Systems” area of iCAP FRA ensures that the airport has a complete overview of all of the fire systems, which is updated every time a change is made.


Effective asset management

In reality, fire risk assessments, asset records, compliance plans and evacuation strategies can be prepared and stored as paper documents.  However, what that approach cannot do – and certainly not for sites with an airport’s complexity – is allow the process to be properly managed.   Paper-based systems are simply too slow, too labour intensive and too prone to inaccuracy to be of any real management value.

The iCAP FRA solution being trialled by BAA overcomes these obstacles using a combination of interactive maps, detailed asset plans and the “traffic-light” alerting protocol.  The asset location maps show the position of all the airport’s assets and enable the particular asset’s “status” to be updated.  From a fire planning viewpoint, these maps also enable nearby risks to be identified, explosion zones to be ascertained and effective firefighting plans to be devised.   Detailed floor plans for every asset show the position and type of every detector, call point, emergency lighting luminaire and fire control panel.

The traffic-light alerting protocol provides an immediate at-a-glance overview of the risk status of each asset and highlights any current “significant” findings; green, amber and red icons are generated depending on the answers given to a BAA bespoke risk profile, visually identifying risk areas.  These colours are generated and updated automatically from new data as it is entered onto the iCAP FRA programme.


Permanent state of readiness

When a crisis breaks, everything must be in place to minimise the impact and resolve the challenges in the shortest time and most effective manner.  It is not an opportunity for learning on the job.  So the iCAP FRA programme also has the facility to include the airport’s Standard Operating Procedures, which dramatically improves response times on risk-based operational procedures, provides a broader knowledge base of information, assists in ensuring that every key safety aspect is considered, and makes available a critical checklist for all current identified scenarios.

This information can prove invaluable at the onset of an incident.  It is also an indispensible tool at the planning stage, when deciding on training needs, during an incident, and throughout post-incident recovery operations.