Gateway to Ghana
Published: 05 April, 2011
Investing in safety and security at Kotoka International Airport is paying off in many ways, writes Charles Hanson Adu. Kotoka International Airport (KIA) is principally managed by the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), a progeny of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority of Ghana which now assumes regulatory function at KIA. The KIA is fast establishing itself as one of the busiest airports in West Africa. It has one South-West/North-East runway (21/03) measuring 3,410 meters.
The rescue firefighting service (RFFS) of GACL has undergone a significant transformation since its inception under the Civil Aviation Authority. Its activities have spread beyond core airport functions to other government agencies as well as Ghana’s neighbouring countries, especially in the area of aircraft recovery and training.
Keeping KIA at the cutting edge of safety and security is of utmost importance for the airport authorities. There is a deliberate effort – as part of its growth strategy – to blend modern and dependable fire trucks with stupendous service, highly motivated workforce and a worldwide support network. This, in the considered view of the leadership of RFFS, will put the section on a higher pedestal as one of the best airport fire services across Africa.
Currently RFFS is operating under CAT 9 status but available principal firefighting media – ie water and foam – capacity at KIA can step up to CAT 10 as and when required. The water and foam capacities currently operating are 46,120 litres of water and 7,416 litres of foam.
GACL has 128 firefighting personnel, one Chief Fire Officer and two managers. The operational men have a 16-man crew assigned to each 24-hour shift system of four. In every 29 days, the firefighters work seven days and seven nights, in 12-hour shifts starting from 0600 hours to 1900 hours. A handover procedure is religiously adhered to, and the shift change involves checking every piece of equipment that is likely to be used. Checking starts some 30 minutes before the new shift officially assumes full duty.
Each person of the RFFS is mandated to undergo a first aid course to attain certified First Aider status, and the certification is renewed every three years. The section is attached with the National Ambulance Service’s emergency medical technicians (EMTs), who are responsible for dealing with any illnesses or injuries that occur at the airport and its environs.
The senior management of the RFFS regards training as a priority, so every effort is made to train personnel to the required efficiency. In order to keep operational drills fresh in the minds of personnel, and to meet International Civil Aviation Organization’s requirements for training, members carry out both in-house continuation and external training programmes. A substantial number have trained at Bristol in the UK, Singapore, South Africa, and quite recently Doula in Cameroon, where men trained with a Boeing 767 simulator.
In addition, the RFFS has a vibrant training school that not only carries out individual mandatory training, but also trains sister agencies in Ghana as well as fire personnel from other countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea (amongst others).
The operational objectives of RFFS is to achieve a response time not exceeding three minutes to reach each end of the runway. To improve on this time, the GACL – as part of its KIA Phase III development project – earmarked the construction of a new fire station as a priority. As a result, the new fire station has been strategically located at the northeast of the runway, and is in a better position to address the challenges and constraints associated with the old fire station. The fire station is in close proximity to the movement area, and access to it is also direct and clear, requiring a minimum number of turns.
With approximately 2,600m2 of space on two floors, there is ample living, administrative and training space for all the personnel of RFFS in the new fire station. The elevated watchroom is sound-proof and equipped with high-tech systems including audible alarm, emergency communication lines, radios, public address (PA) systems, etc. It is also equipped with the latest air traffic management technology, which can be used by the air traffic control unit as a second watchtower.
The watchroom serves as the central point for receiving emergency calls, and it provides the maximum degree of surveillance and widest possible views of movement areas. The station is connected to a secondary power source to ensure a continuous supply of electricity to the station. Additionally, it offers 10 appliance bays that house modern dual-purpose crash rescue firefighting tenders and other specialised support vehicles. It has a spacious forecourt with flood lighting to permit appliance maneuvering and night-time activities respectively.
The RFFS also operates the GACL aircraft recovery system which has the capability to lift any aircraft up to a Boeing 747-400. The RFFS has successfully conducted seven aircraft recoveries including a B747-200.
The enhanced emergency response capabilities represented by the three state-of-the-art fire trucks, aircraft recovery machine, highly motivated workforce and soon to be commissioned fire station, are an excellent reflection of GACL’s commitment to making safety and security the highest priority at KIA.