Posted by Sade Williams
Aviation stakeholders have tasked officers of the Aerodrome Rescue and Firefighting Service (ARFFS) to always response promptly in the event of air crashes within and outside the airports in order to minimize the effect.
They expressed worry that over the years the officers only ended up recovering rather than rescuing victims from most air crashes, advising that swift response is part of safety.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Centurion Security and Safety Consults, Group Captain, John Ojikutu, while speaking at the event marking the 2019 International Firefighters’ Day Celebration, themed: “Upscaling Inter-Agency Collaboration with Effective Implementation of the Airport Emergency Plan”, pointed out that to effectively mitigate air fatalities within and outside the airport environment, ARFFS as an arm should develop fire crash map as well as formulate an emergency management plan which will incorporate all stakeholders involved, in case of an accident.
Ojikutu lamented that there was no reason why people from the Sosoliso crash that occurred at the Port Harcourt airport, could not be salvaged on time, noting that the plane crashed right in front of a fire station.
“When a crash occurs, the first people the Control Tower will call is the Fire Service, so work with NAMA. The Sosoliso crash that happened in Port Harcourt is very pathetic because the crash occurred right in front of a Fire Service station.
“When the crash happened, radios in the Fire Service station were not working for them to reach out for help. Also, there was no water even in their reservoir, so they were just looking at the airplane burning with passengers inside”, he said.
He further cited the fire incident that engulfed the Owerri and Abuja airports, stressing that the way forward was for ARFFS to cooperate with other agencies to effectively rescue the victims in case of emergencies.
“As ARFFS, we need to cooperate with the medical team and security agencies. In case of an emergency, these three groups are very important. How many medical kits do we have? Do we have facilities to rescue 20 people?. You must cooperate with the hospitals and provide facilities like beds to them so that in case of an emergency, they can attend to the casualties faster” Ojukutu said.
He however, tasked the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to ensure that airline operators, handling companies at the airport have their emergency management plan in case of unforeseen challenges.
Speaking in the same vein, Director of Aerodrome and Airspace Standards (DAAS) in Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Engr. Tayib Adetunji noted that NCAA is not perfect but stressed that the authority was working tirelessly to ensure that every airport in the country have adequate facilities to combat fire outbreak.
Adetunji charged ARFFS to discharge their duties effectively and develop their integrity profile emphasizing that the regulatory authority will always keep its standards.
“For instance, when we were called upon to open Bayelsa airport; we discovered that there was no perimeter fence, their fire tenders were not working and because of that we refused to open the airport and we gave them some open items. I have seen an airport where only the battery of a fire tender keeps such facilities lying fallow” he stressed.
Earlier in his remarks, The Director Airport Operations, FAAN, Captain Rabiu Yadudu, commended the Federal Government for making fire prevention in the industry a priority with the recent acquisition of a fire fighting simulator.
Yadudu emphasized that this was an indication of serious business drive for the aviation industry sector being a hub for training RFFs from other countries.
“This is a quantum leap in the countryside lists of achievements”.
He commended the tireless efforts of the fire fighters in the industry, adding that they deserve better working environment, support and encouragement.
The Director of Airport Operations observed that the training needs of the fire fighters must be intensified and realistic, saying, ‘Airports may have regulatory oversight by an arm of their individual, national governments, and or voluntarily under standards of the international Civil Aviation Organization. Due to the mass casualty potential of an aviation emergency, the speed with which emergency response equipment and personnel arrive at the scene of the emergency is of Paramount Importance”.