Air crash response: Is Nigeria ready?

WOLE SHADARE writes that training produces a well prepared force that through repetition can increase the speed of an operation and enhance proper execution while reducing injuries

Response to accidents

Responding to aircraft crash may likely be one of the most challenging, dangerous and physiological impacting experience a firefighter may encounter during his career.

The potential for disasters have increased significantly in recent years because currently planes are carrying larger numbers of passengers, often flying to and from facilities not equipped or staffed to handle this increase in traffic. More specifically, these facilities are all prepared to respond to aviation accidents because they are operating under outdated regulations designed when fewer travellers were flying in smaller aircraft handling far less traffic that is the case today.

Major changes in aircraft size and capacity have occurred since then and today’s airport firefighters face many new challenges. Air travel has reached record levels worldwide and will continue to do so. What has not changed however, are the precious few minutes in which to effect rapid fire knockdown and rescue of aircraft occupants during an air crash.

Due to the mass casualty potential of an aviation emergency, the speed with which emergency response equipment and personnel arrive at the scene of emergency is of paramount importance. Their arrival and initial mission to secure the aircraft against all hazards, particularly fire, increases the survivability of the passengers and crew on board.

Airport firefighters have advanced training in the application of firefighting foams, dry chemical and clean agents used to extinguish burning aviation fuel in and around an aircraft in order to maintain a path for evacuating passengers to exit the fire hazard area. Further, should fire either be encountered in the cabin or extend there from an external fire, the ARFF responders are expected to work to control/extinguish these fires as well.

 

Training

Training is the backbone of any fire department. . A firefighter who arrives at an emergency unprepared can be faced with life-and-death situations, putting himself or herself under extreme stress to perform the necessary duties.

Expert in fire-fighting who spoke under condition of anonymity, said if firefighters are not conducting some type of training every time they work a shift in the fire house, then they are not doing their job. The sources added that training is the most important activities firefighters can be involved in.

Effect

Modern commercial aircraft can have the capacity to carry several hundred passengers and crew. Therefore, due to the mass casualty potential of an aviation emergency, it is critical that emergency response equipment and personnel arrive at the scene within the minimum possible time. The maximum response time from initial notification until the first vehicle is on scene and spraying fire retardant is defined by state regulation and generally ranges from three to four minutes under conditions of good visibility and uncontaminated surfaces. At large aerodromes, this often means that more than one fire station will be necessary.

 

FAAN keys into plan

Meanwhile, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates airports to conduct full-scale tests of their airport emergency plan (AEP) every three years. Such drills not only test the AEP, but also create a real-time practice environment for multi-agency, multijurisdictional response coordination that would be necessary in the event of an actual incident.

Nigeria, through the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has also keyed into the programme to periodically simulate fire incidents at the airports, especially for those in Lagos and Abuja. These are two major airports that control over 80 per cent of the entire total traffic bought for domestic and international.

The FAAN had last month conducted a mock air crash rescue operation at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja (NAIA) to assess its readiness to respond to air crash and other emergencies.

 

Last line

To guarantee preparedness for safety at all times, not a few argued that there is the need to carry out simulated exercises, aimed at testing the preparedness of all concerned agencies with regard to aircraft accident or any other emergency situation according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards and Crisis Emergency Response Plan (CERP).

Wole Shadare

COMMENTS

  • OJIKUTU

    Wole, you are probably concerned with aircraft accident in the airport; how about accident outside the airport? That is where we often fail and woefully too. Who are those that should be the first, second and third responders? In many instances you find NEMA that should be the third responder always the first ahead of the state and local govt responders. The local govt responders who are closer Always to the scene of accidents are technicality handicap and lacked necessary facilities to handle aircraft accidents. The resultant of such setting is for the state and national emergency services to get to the scene late and instead of rescuing victims, they recover dead bodies. That was the experience of the Dana crash.

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