a@w 8 – September 16, 2020: Healing a Memory

awareness@work 8 – September 16, 2020
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Healing a Memory

Written by: Carolyn V. Coarsey. Ph.D.

September 16, 2020

   This month’s awareness article is written by an experienced airport responder/leader, Christopher Gay, whose connection with two DFW accidents adds to the understanding of the evolution of emergency response in the field of aviation. I met Chris in 2018 when I had the privilege to bring the Human Services Response™ (HSR) for Airports Train-the-Trainer program to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Chris met me on my arrival the first day and gave me a tour of the entire property.

    Unbeknown to Chris, he also gave me a gift that day. While we were visiting over lunch, I spoke about my memories of August 2, 1985 as they related to the airport property itself. After lunch Chris drove me around the airport and re-traced the actual crash of Delta Flight 191, and in doing so, answered a question that had plagued me since the day of the accident. On the day of the crash, an airline executive who worked in a building near the airport drove me to the hospital where survivors were being taken. In my memory, as we drove away from the airport, I glimpsed the accident site, located adjacent to the main entrance/exit. Over time I realized that this picture was inconsistent with pictures of the site shown by the press.

    When Chris pointed out the site as being closest to North Airfield Drive, I realized why my memory of the site was flawed. In trying to get through the grid-lock surrounding the terminal, my friend had taken an airport road which members of the public would not normally use to drive to the terminals---and drove me right by the crash site, albeit innocently exposing me to a close-up that otherwise I would not have experienced. And now Chris had put my mind at ease. My memory now makes sense, over 30 years later. Thank you, Chris, for helping me integrate this memory of the crash site. 


Safety & Security at the Airport Enables a World Class Employee and Customer Experience

By Christopher Gay

    In last month’s article, Carolyn talked about “Untrained Employees, the Unsung Heroes” and how these employees reacted and responded to a series of aviation accidents from 1987-1989. Her article also spoke to her own experiences while at Eastern Airlines, as well as to the Delta 191 accident at DFW on August 2, 1985. This month’s article will speak to how airport emergency response has changed over the years, and what further changes need to occur in order to protect the lives of their employees and customers.


Dallas/Ft Worth International Airport (DFW)

    Owned jointly by the City of Dallas and the City of Fort Worth, DFW is geographically located within five cities and two counties and was the largest airport in the country at the time of the Delta 191 accident. Managed by a Board of Directors, the airport had created some complex operational and political challenges, but those challenges have been overcome and the airport has been highly successful over its lifetime.

    It was just a typical North Texas day at DFW Airport on the evening of August 2, 1985. A hot and sunny day was turning into a hit and miss stormy evening as is generally the case in North Texas during that time of year. [1] That would all change at 6:05 PM local time when Delta 191 encountered Windshear, and came in contact with the ground north of the airfield, struck a car on Texas State Highway 114, and then struck a water tower while on approach to Runway 17L. Air Traffic Control notified the airport by the Crash Phone at 6:06 PM local [2] as the lives of hundreds of people had been changed forever.

     On August 31, 1988 at about 9:01 AM, three years and 29 days after the Delta 191 accident, Delta 1141 crashed on take-off and came to rest 3,200 feet off the departure end of Runway 18L. Unlike 191, this accident was a result of pilot error, and the majority of the passengers, one member of the flight crew and two members of the cabin crew survived [3].


Early Personal Experience

    While I was just a child growing up in San Antonio at the time, I remember seeing and hearing the sights and sounds of the day while watching TV and reading the newspaper. I was captivated by the accident… My Dad was a Firefighter/EMT for the City of San Antonio Fire Department and he was also a private pilot. We would spend hours watching airplanes, flying, and “chasing” fires. I would find myself at DFW 20 years later working as a Firefighter/EMT. I was well into my career as a firefighter when I was hired by DFW having spent several years in a small municipal and rural fire department. Interestingly, my first day on the job at DFW was January 31, 2005. This day also marked the last official day that the Delta Airlines hub at DFW was in operation as the airline had de-hubed the airport in an effort to cut costs post 9/11.

    From day one, Delta 191 and Delta 1141 were regular topics of discussion and training. I would get the opportunity to speak to some of those who were there, many of whom were there for both accidents. One of the Public Safety Officers, as they were called at the time, who responded to both accidents at DFW had even responded to the Eastern Airlines Flight 401 accident on December 29, 1972 while in the military. From day one of ARFF School (Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting) to my last day at DFW as a Senior Emergency Manager, both accidents were drivers for change, especially within the airport’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) which is responsible for Fire/EMS, Police, Airport Security, Emergency Management and 911 Communications.     


Response Challenges – “Lessons Learned” After Action Reports to Gaps Identified and Corrected


    At DFW, Delta 191 and Delta 1141 along with a few non-fatal accidents and incidents at the airport were all “internal” drivers for change. Knowing your response area, fire apparatus (fire truck), and equipment like the back of your hand and knowing what it will and will not do, and how to safely push it to their limits is Standard Operating Procedure.

    I’m not talking about being a “Cowboy”, I’m talking about making everything a highly trained and educated muscle memory through interpreting visual and auditory cues in order to identify risk/reward and predict rapidly evolving conditions, and being able to do it all in your sleep and all while operating in the worst conditions possible… (and to continue to do so when your truck has a system failure or is damaged) in pouring/blinding rain and lightning, in knee deep mud, with mangled pieces of wreckage spread across an area larger than a football field, hazardous materials, human remains, electrical hazards, mechanical hazards, burning jet fuel and other combustible materials, while conducting Fire Suppression, Search & Rescue, and other activities while wearing over 100lbs of protective equipment that restricts your movement, hearing, and vision.

    Life Safety, Incident Stabilization, Property and Environmental Conservation, and Societal Restoration is the name of the game. These strategic priorities are the foundation to emergency response and recovery. One of the results of these drivers was the creation of the DFW Fire Training and Research Center which is the most recent evolution in the airport’s long standing ARFF training program. In Fire/EMS response, it’s not just winging it or theory… it’s science and at times a touch of luck or divine intervention.

    These drivers for change extended beyond the “fences of the airport” to include sending Go Teams to other airports where a significant accident has occurred or by conducting research and training.  Lectures, skill development, knowledge and skill-based testing, Tabletop Drills, Functional Exercises, and Full-Scale Exercises. Test and Evaluate, identify the gaps, and close them... Better training, better equipment, better infrastructure, and additional staffing were all a result of these challenges.

    From changes in ARFF fire apparatus design to the adaptation of tools and equipment typically used on traditional “city” structural fire apparatus', these changes help Fire/EMS agencies meet their response priorities and objectives.

Some examples of Industry Changes since Delta 191:

·  ARFF Apparatus design and construction improvements including braking     systems, suspension systems, and power train

·  Application of technology from the Military such as Thermal Imaging Cameras     that are vehicle mounted or hand-held and other “battle tested” systems

·  Interoperable Radio Communications Systems that allow for agencies to     communicate across organizational silos

·  Patient tracking systems that track what patients go to what hospitals

·  Improved patient triage processes and treatments

·  Creation of the ARFF Working Group to better enable the creation and     sharing of Best Practices related to Airport Rescue Fire Fighting on an     international level

·  Creation of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Tech Center

·  Case Study approach to training and research

    The above mentioned are just a small example of the improvements the airport response community have taken to better protect lives and property. However, one of the greatest advancements has been in aircraft design itself. Accidents that would have been fatal in the past are now survivable. This has posed a change in operational dynamics. Fewer fatalities result in greater numbers that may need medical care and greater number of survivors.


Accepting the Challenges of the Future  – Doing the Right Thing and Doing Things Right


    As times and technology change, research must be continued based on the current and future trends of airport emergency response, and new processes, response models, and requirements must be adopted. Current industry regulatory standards for ARFF in the United States at civilian airports operating commercial air carrier services is set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under Title 14, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 139 (14 CFR Part 139 Airport Certification. Specifically for ARFF, this document mandates that an ARFF response be tested from the station location to the mid-point of the furthest runway with the first unit arriving in three minutes or less and the remaining units arriving in 4 minutes or less. There is no reference to minimum staffing requirements other than what is needed to operate your ARFF vehicles, meet your tested time, and meet your “Airport Index” agent requirements. To sum it up in a nut shell, if you are required to have three ARFF trucks to maintain your “Airport Index” all you are required to have in the eyes of the FAA is three firefighters with at least one being medically trained. In other words, enough to do the "job" (drive the truck and discharge agent) to meet the requirement and check the box.

    There is significantly more to ARFF than driving a big truck really fast and putting foam on a fire that is 200’ away without getting out of your truck. Consider this… Compare those times above against the time requirement to evacuate an aircraft, 90 seconds, and the time it takes for an exterior fire to burn through an intact aircraft fuselage as a result of direct flame impingement, 60 seconds. That is not a lot of time. Additionally, none of this accounts for interior fire suppression, search and rescue, initial medical operations and other time critical priorities, objects, and actions. The results of this minimum requirement are an initial over reliance on Mutual Aid from agencies off the airport and a delay in meeting strategic priorities and objectives, which could lead to additional loss of life. 

    Another problem with these requirements is that the majority of on airport accidents occur off the runway ends, ie... on the approach end as in Asiana Flight 214 on July 6, 2013 in San Francisco and British Airways Flight 38 at London Heathrow in January 2008, or on the departure end as in Southwest Flight 1248 on December 8, 2005 at Chicago Midway or Southwest Flight 1455 on March 5, 2000 in which both aircrafts overran the end of the runway during landing. Accidents and incidents do occur in the middle of the runway but these are generally either runway excursions where the aircraft leaves the runway surface and goes into the grass, or they are incidents where there is a problem with the aircraft that prevents it from taking off or exiting the runway after landing, or they are a result of pilot or air traffic control error. Examples of these accidents are the February 1, 1991 aircraft collision at LAX involving US Air Flight 1493 and SkyWest Flight 5569 which was a major fatality accident (which ironically involved the old LAX Fire Station 80 getting struck by the aircraft during the accident). American Airlines Flight 383 which occurred at Chicago O’Hare after the aircraft suffered an un-contained engine failure on takeoff, and British Airways Flight 2276 at Las Vegas-McCarran on September 8, 2005. These types of incidents are very typically all survivable unless something unusual happens as in the LAX accident, and they all involve fire suppression, rescuing, protecting, treating, transporting, tracking, and reuniting a large number of survivors. Also of interest, and in need of change, is the lack of an Emergency Management Program requirement as part of Part 139. The FAA requires that an airport is required to have an Emergency Plan, but it does not specify who should write it and who should coordinate the response.

    Research on these things has already been done by both the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) which is a specialized agency of the United Nations, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) which is an international non-profit that researches and develops industry consensus standards that can be implemented around the world. Both organizations have a significantly higher standard level for ARFF and Emergency (Crisis) Management.

    Keep in mind that we have only talked about aircraft accident response… airports must also take an All-Hazards approach when it comes to risk/threats. Threats to Aviation Security, Structure fires, Hazardous Materials and WMD, Technical Rescue, Active Threats (shooters, bombers, vehicles, and such) targeting the terminals on the non-secure side, Severe Weather, Cyber Attack, Utility and Systems Outages, other Business Disruptions… and the list goes on, and it also includes Public Health Emergencies as we are experiencing today with the COVID-19 Pandemic. All of these will throw the airport into Irregular Operations (IROPS), if not completely close it. Airports must be prepared to respond to and recover from these incidents all the while restoring and maintaining Continuity of Operations. All these pose significant challenges and require an emergency response of some sort. An emergency on the ground will quickly create emergencies in the air as aircrafts bound for the impacted airport, work to land at their destination or diversion airport before fuel becomes critical. Your airport might not be the only one having problems. It takes a strategic approach that requires Integrated Operations on a daily basis, and deeper integration during emergencies. Integrated Operations Centers/Emergency Operations Centers that allow for all the airport’s capabilities including business partners to work with each other daily allows for the creation of relationships at all levels. When an emergency occurs, you do not have to exchange business cards… you already know everyone and how they operate.

    “High Risk/Low Probability” or “It’s not our responsibility” no longer meets the public’s and customer’s expectation. Preparedness and the ability to immediately respond to the incident, support those who are impacted, and quickly recover from the incident does. The airline’s customers are the airport’s, and the airport’s customers are also the airline’s customers, and the airlines and airports have the same objective. To get their customers and employees from Point A to Point B safely. As for the Authority Having Jurisdiction, you have the obligation and responsibility to enable and support that.   

    So, here in the United States, it is up to the airport and their Authority Having Jurisdiction to Do the Right Thing, and to Do Things Right. Customer Experience is more than the new and shiny in the Terminal, and Employee Experience is more than Employee Engagement. Employee and Customer/Guest Experience is enabled by Safety & Security, and by staffing, equipping, training, drilling, and exercising those capabilities above and beyond the bare minimum requirement. Some large airports, such as LAX, DFW, ORD, ATL, and JFK to name a few, have already taken these steps and have very robust ARFF and Emergency Management programs that exceed minimum requirements. But more work still has to be done… Just as we empower employees and CARE Teams through Human Services Response™, airports must also enable and empower their emergency response capabilities to do the same, to save lives and help people on their worst day. Your brand depends on it, and the lives of your employees and customer may depend on it to.

[1] National Weather Service, [2] National Transportation Safety Board - Aircraft Accident Report, DELTA AIR LINES, INC., LOCKHEED L-101 l-385-1, N726DA DALLAS/FORT WORTH - INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, TEXAS AUGUST 2,1985 [3] National Transportation Safety Board - Aircraft Accident Report, DELTA AIRLINES,INC. BOEING 727-232,N473DA DALLAS-FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT,TEXAS AUGUST31,1988

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