Airport firefighters often require support from external fire departments, so a collaborative mindset is essential
Airport managers must be on good terms with the surrounding community, especially since the onsite airport rescue and firefighting (ARFF) team would probably require off-site mutual aid resources to deal with the aftermath of an aircraft accident.
Mutual aid first responders include fire, police, and medical personnel who support their airport counterparts. For mutual aid to be successful, airports must engage with its partners and address common issues that may include liability, jurisdictional issues, and command and control.
Training is a key consideration because fighting a building fire differs in many ways from responding to a burning aircraft seeping jet fuel. Airports are inherently ideal environments for fire departments to conduct training. Routinely inviting municipal firefighters inside the airport fence for training exposes them to situations unique to an airfield. As a result they become familiar with airfield access considerations, driving requirements, and co-ordination requirements with the various airport stakeholders.
Most airports, by way of US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, look to meet partner organisations on an annual basis to review emergency response procedures. ARFF personnel should also routinely meet with mutual aid partners outside of emergency response or training scenarios.
Local fire departments need to be familiar with the types of aircraft that operate from nearby airports. ARFF departments should invite mutual aid partners to annual live burn training or on-airport training courses as establishing personal relationships in advance of an emergency fosters communications and team-building.
Just as importantly, airports need to identify the capabilities of mutual aid partners and determine how mutual training opportunities can create competency and efficiency to forge resilient partnerships.
The need for mutual aid did not escape the attention of the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigated the July 2013 crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport.
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