Interconnecting Through ARFF

At Boston, planning, collaboration, and training are helping to set a new standard.


Donahue's relationship with the aviation director allows him to better understand growth projections in terms of flight operations and the number of passengers, including peak operations time periods. This helps his staff develop strategies based on the time of day and capacity estimates. "As my boss and the planners talk about growth and capacity, to me that translates to casualty profiles. It helps me determine what types of resources we need."

Perhaps most important, Donahue says, is recognizing the strategic and economic significance of the airport to the region and the state. BOS generates some $8 billion to the New England economy; because of that, it's important to keep "this economic engine firing on all cylinders," he says.

To again emphasize the importance of fire rescue services at the airport, before Boston Logan embarked on its $4.4 billion modernization project, it was important to Kinton, according to Donahue, that the airport's emergency services be positioned for the future by upgrading the infrastructure to the tune of some $24 million. Then the airport was rebuilt around the emergency services system. "Because, according to Kinton," says Donahue, "safety and security have been moved from being priorities to being part of the value system. Priorities can change with business agendas and business plans. But you can't change values."

When the response facilities were constructed, Donahue says it "wasn't just about throwing up some brick and mortar. We actually did test responses, did computer modeling."

The Return: Interoperability

He goes further to say that the airport director and emergency services need to be in synch with each other, what he calls "synchronized preparedness." Airport administration must view the fire and rescue services as a critical component to the airport infrastructure that requires investment to maintain.

Boston Logan's fire and emergency services operating budget is some $11 million, while its capital budget is some $1 million. "Massport invests a lot of money in this," says Donahue. "Kinton is a businessman, and I know from being exposed to him and his agenda and challenges, I'm very in tune to the issues of profit and loss, airline profitability and sustainability - they're critical. So we try to figure out in all our strategies, can there or should there be a return on this investment? And we think there is."

That return is not easily measured in numbers. Comparing previous years, Donahue can show that incidents are down in regard to the airport's ramp safety program. More importantly, however, is how well the system functions during an incident - the interoperability of the system. "Interoperability isn't just communications," he says, "it's human factors. So when we have a security breach at the terminal, how well that's managed, how quickly it's managed, and how quickly it's mitigated, to me, that's a huge measure of the effectiveness of these safety and training programs we're conducting."

Collaboration, On- and Off-Airport

Boston Logan is home to more than 50 air carriers, as well as tenants, employees, and federal agencies. In the event of any emergency at the airport, from a cardiac arrest to a multi-agency response incident, everybody at the airport has to be "truly on the same page so that there is one plan of action," Donahue says. For this to happen, there needs to be extensive training and education of the airport community, including all of its entities, as well as local, state, and federal agencies in the greater Boston area and throughout Massachusetts. "If they're not at the airport, get them there," he says. "Don't wait for them to knock on your door; you pick up the phone and you make the call."

Donahue says that the airport has experienced "unprecedented" levels of collaboration with airport stakeholders, and is now pushing that into the private sector with some of Boston's major corporate groups, and the medical and education communities. "Whatever goes on at the airport has a profound impact on them, their business, their people, so they too need to be at our table planning."

According to Donahue, the airport has worked over the years to build what it calls a truly high-performance response system. Every year, multi-agency emergency response training exercises are performed; under Part 139, the FAA requires that they be performed every three years. Boston Logan finds the annual exercises beneficial for the efficiency and performance of the system. "We have a very diverse response group," he explains. "Some of these agencies have a lot of turnover. We can't, and we won't assume that they know how this system works. It's our responsibility to get everybody to the same level."

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