13 Hazard Areas

17 Oct 13 Hazard Areas

Do you know the protection level of the buildings within your response area? Do you know which structures present the greatest risk of fire incident or safety to life? Are your tenants, employees and customers really safe, or are they truly at risk, with just a perception of safety? Aaron Johnson, Fire Strategist suggests that you can obtain a clear picture of the risks present and create a plan of action to mitigate or respond to fire incidents in these locations. 

Risk can be defined as “the combination of the likelihood of an accident occurrence and the severity of the potential consequences”. By conducting a fire risk assessment the level of risk can be identified, specific hazards can be realised and action can be taken to mitigate these risks. But what are these hazards? What risks are posed by aviation facilities?
A thorough risk assessment and pre-planning exercise can ensure that your firefighters and personnel are aware of the items, operations, and hazards that exist in your airport’s buildings. There are 13 hazard areas that should be assessed by first responders with aviation emergency responsibilities.
Property identification information
Clearly identify the building or property area that is being assessed. Airports may have one main address but many buildings. Know how these buildings are marked and labelled.
Property use 
A building’s occupancy type and use can provide the first clues as to the hazards that could be expected within the structure. An aircraft maintenance hangar, terminal building or air traffic control tower all have very different and specific uses, processes and products.
Site and access information 
Airports can be confusing sites to navigate. When conducting the risk assessment or pre-plan, note all access points to the facility and the quickest and most direct route to the area. Some access > > items to consider include, roadways, temporary and permanent barriers, fencing and any bodies of water. This is also an opportunity to assess all surrounding exposures and any impact that a fire in one area may have on another. What are the closest buildings and structures? What items are normally stored around the building? What processes take place in these surrounding structures or outside areas? What vegetation or wooded areas are nearby? In the event of a fire how would nearby roads and access points be affected?
Building construction features
No pre-plan would be complete without providing general building information. This information should include the building dimensions, the building’s total area, and the number of storeys. The construction type should also be described, as each type has its own challenges. NFPA 220, Standard on Types of Building Construction outlines and defines five construction types, with Type I being the most fire resistant and Type V being the least fire resistant.
Life safety and egress features
The assessment should examine those parts of a building that are designed to preserve “life from a fire event or its associated hazards”. Primarily, these are the features that enable occupants to quickly and safely exit the building in an emergency situation. Noting the number of exits, the arrangement of the exits and any special locks or hardware can assist the responders in gaining access and enable them to clearly see how to assist in getting people out of the building.
The first priority for firefighters and emergency responders is life safety. Every part of the risk assessment and pre-planning should be conducted with this as the ultimate goal. The terminal building itself poses the greatest risk to passengers, as there are many people headed in different directions, in various types of spaces. The key to protecting these passengers is ensuring that all exits and means of egress are clearly marked and remain accessible. Additionally, the use of trained crowd managers can greatly contribute to the rate of survivability. If utilised, the risk assessment should document the use and training of these personnel.
Water supply and distribution system
Ensuring the reliability of the water supply system is essential. During the assessment process the source of water supply should be determined. This supply could be from a municipal source, or a separate supply unique to the airport. Maintenance records should be reviewed so the responders can be confident the water will be available when needed. Location of fire hydrants and any alternate water supply sources should be noted and clearly marked on the pre-plan.
Extinguishing systems and devices
Different types of structures will require different levels of fire protection and types of fire protection and suppression systems. These systems could be wet pipe, dry pipe, deluge, preaction, or a special hazard system (such as water mist or gaseous agent). The pre-plan should note the presence of these systems; the type of system; the areas protected by the system; how to control the system and whether the system is properly maintained according to applicable codes and standards.
Fire alarm and detection systems
During the risk assessment and pre-plan the presence of a fire alarm and the location of all fire alarm control panels should be noted. As there are many types of control panels, it would serve the responder well to briefly review and understand the panel operations. To be effective these systems must be regularly inspected, tested, and maintained. Records of these activities should be reviewed to ensure that the fire alarm system is in proper operating condition.
Electrical systems
A major cause of fires is electrical issues. In aircraft hangars there can be an abundance of fuel and fuel vapours. Improper electrical installations or applications can cause sparks which can lead to ignition of any fuel vapours that may be present. The National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) classifies the area within 5’ horizontally, and extending from the floor to 5’ above the wings, engine enclosures, aircraft power plants and aircraft fuel tanks as a hazardous area. Any tools, appliances, or electrical connections used within these spaces are required to be intrinsically safe. To further prevent electrical fire incidents, a walk-through of the area should note any improper electrical wiring, missing components, and electric panel access.
HVAC systems
The location of any heating, ventilation, or air conditioning units should be noted on the pre-plan. It is important to know if these units are located on roof-top overhead, or in relation to an actual fire, if these were the potential cause. Large airport buildings may be equipped with smoke control systems. Understanding the location, use and operation of these systems, can greatly aid in fire suppression efforts.
Fire prevention
A major part of the risk assessment is to determine whether the structure is compliant with all fire protection and life safety codes and standards. Any deficiencies should be noted on the assessment and brought to the attention of those responsible for the facility. Documenting this information provides a record that these issues were noted and reported. This also allows the first responders to be aware of issues that may affect their safety, and suppression or rescue efforts.
Special hazards and equipment
Different tenants, facilities, and occupancies may store, use, or handle a variety or hazardous materials. The pre-plan and risk assessment should clearly note the substances and quantities present, how they are used, and hazardous processes that take place within the building or surrounding areas. Some hazardous materials or processes that may be encountered could include, flammable and combustible liquids/gases/solids, finishing and industrial processes, cooking operations and the presence of boilers or furnaces.
Construction, demolition, and modifications
These types of operations can greatly increase the risk of fire. If these types of projects are taking place construction safety should be enforced. Safety issues to be addressed include a fire safety plan, debris management plan, hot work permitting, fire watch requirements, and site security.
Do you know the protection level of the buildings within your response area? Do you know which structures present the greatest risk of fire incident or safety to life? How can you know if your facility is at risk of loss from fire? What features and processes are in place that decrease or enhance that risk? What mitigation’s can be put into place to minimise the fire risk? Are your tenants, employees, and customers really safe, or are they truly at risk, with just a perception of safety? By working through these 13 areas, you will be provided with a clear picture of the risks present and be able to create a plan of action to mitigate or respond to fire incidents in these locations.
For a custom checklist and risk assessment programme and additional information can be accessed visit AviationFireRisk.com
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