Interconnecting Through ARFF

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

For example, if a fire alarm goes off, airport employees are trained to assess a situation. If there's no smoke or visible fire, people are held in place. "They know the fire department is responding - it's an automatic system, so we're coming," he says. "If there's no immediate threat to life safety, we don't want to disrupt operations." Donahue says that the delicate balance between life safety and the economic impact on the airport is always central to decisionmaking. "Nothing compromises life safety; but, always in the back of our minds is how you balance it."

The second step is to relocate people from one compartment of safety to the next in a progressive and horizontal fashion - the preferred path being back to the street. The third step in the process, if necessary, is evacuation.

The airport also has mechanisms in place where LEOs (law enforcement officers) and public information personnel are sweeping the terminal to ensure safety. This process also involves extensive training, coordination, testing, and drills for all airport stakeholders.

Learning From Incidents

Training and continuing education are high priority to Donahue and his staff. When there is an incident at another airport that they think they can learn from, a team is sent out from Boston Logan to analyze the incident and apply the airport's plans, procedures, and environment to that incident. "Every time something happens in this industry, that truly is an opportunity to learn. And we don't miss an opportunity to learn, to really drill down and analyze these things."

The "Go Team," as it is known, is comprised of firefighters, state police, and airport operations. Those involved at the incident airport can share aspects of their emergency plans that went right and what they might have done differently, explains Donahue. "And that might translate into a procedural change or maybe a new piece of equipment."

Based on what the Go Team learns, the incident is transformed into a training module and provided to the airport's emergency system, including off-airport. "It's been a great learning tool for us," says Donahue. "You find out what the issues are; you find out where the holes and gaps may be as it would relate to your operation."

Beyond the training, Donahue says a module of the incident is also created and taken to the airport's board of directors. "We hit them right in the eye with what we would view as the critical issues that we learned from that accident," he says. "It has helped us raise their levels of awareness and an understanding of the things that we would be confronted with if that particular accident happened at Logan Airport."

The information is shared with other airports, including those in Donahue's peer group of other Index E airports. The fire rescue chiefs hold monthly conference calls to discuss issues facing their facilities, as well as share ideas and conduct benchmark surveys. Recently, Donahue completed a benchmark survey on the initial emergency response profile of his peer airports, including analyzing staffing levels and equipment. "I'm working on a risk-based staffing plan of my own," says Donahue. "Sometimes it helps if you can show some sort of comparison on where we stand with other airports."

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