A Lasting Impact of 9/11

On September 11, 2001 thousands of innocent people were murdered. Since that horrific day, the aviation industry, particularly at major airports, has been investing in equipment and training for ARFF response to “New Age Threats”. In the days...


An airport evaluation, which includes a response analysis for each risk category, will help to identify if planning and response capabilities match the airport’s goals relative to emergency response and mitigation of incidents.

Training and Equipment

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) prohibits personnel from operating within a hazardous incident without the proper training, equipment, and procedures. The regulations specifically target emergency responses. Fines can be levied if personnel are “permitted” to enter a hazardous environment without proper safeguards.

Training for first responders, consistent with OSHA regulations, involves the following:

  • A 40-hour course regarding Emergency Response to Hazardous Incidents followed within a certain timeframe by at least an eight-hour refresher course;
  • A 24-hour training course in Weapons of Mass Destruction and Integrated Emergency Response, followed within a certain timeframe by an eight-hour refresher course in WMD;
  • An annual eight-hour course on Hazardous Material Operations (HazMat first responder);
  • Baseline medical screening.

The following list is comprised of items typically associated with a biochem or WMD event (Prior to 9/11, these items did not exist at many public airports):

  • 60-minute SCBA tanks
  • Smart Bio detection tickets
  • Chemical agent detection paper
  • Chemical agent detector kit
  • Face mask with biochem cartridge
  • Radiation ‘monitor’ for emergency vehicles
  • Radiation “S” pagers
  • Level B HazMat Suits “Response Pack”
  • Level A Encapsulated HazMat suit decontamination system
  • Bomb search suit with biochem visor
  • Charcoal hoods for level B HazMat suits
  • Photoionization device
  • Nerve/blister agent monitor

A major re-thinking

New age thinking must be adopted by everyone to deal with these new age threats — this means, regulators, managers, responders, as well as the general public. The level of preparedness is only limited by imagination. Emergency planners considered that aircraft could hit the World Trade Center, but nobody believed it could cause the Twin Towers to collapse.

FEMA was prepared for hurricanes, natural disasters, and floods, but never anticipated the scale of disaster that occurred on the Gulf Coast when Katrina and her evil sister Rita came ashore and took away the protection of the levees with the tidal surges. Emergency planners who wrote those plans prepared for the anticipated devastation, but neglected the magnitude of the reality.

The risk with fuel

Airports are required to have a plan for a fire or other emergency at the fuel farm. Does that plan include the worst case scenario? Or the intentional act? Is it a complete tactical response plan, or simply a reference to “dispatch available fire equipment and personnel and make use of systems, agent, and mutual aid to combat the fire”?

What’s required is a detailed emergency response and tactical firefighting plan to protect against the greatest risk at the airport. By reading the plans for the fuel farm, calculating the surface areas of tanks and secondary containment areas, calculations can determine specifically how much foam and water flow is needed to extinguish a fire.

Foam inventories and apparatus flow rates must be calculated in advance to determine if an effective fire attack can be launched with apparatus and personnel that are normally on hand. If enough agent and adequate flow rates are not applied at the time of the fire attack, any product discharged on the fire will be overcome by the BTUs and wasted. A prepared Incident Commander will delay any discharge of agent until enough apparatus and agent are in position. Airport managers should ensure that this analysis has been performed at their fuel farms.

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