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The Benefits of Having Fire and Rescue Service Training Solutions at Regional Airports

Serco has established and managed Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) training operations across the Middle East since 2020. As providers to the private sector and regional governments, Serco is responsible for FRS training for multiple international and regional airports in the Middle East.

They have introduced to the region state-of-the-art training here in the UAE and training programmes that align with country regulations, global guidance and best practices. In addition to providing a multitude of live fire training capability – classified under various International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) categories (including Category 10), they are the Middle East division of the Serco owned and operated International Fire Training Centre (IFTC) in the UK that is also used to train local FRS personnel from across the GCC and currently trains up to 10,000 students per year.

As providers to the private sector and regional governments, Serco is responsible for FRS training for multiple international and regional airports in the Middle East.

Here condensing Serco’s extensive experience, Samantha Rowles, the Middle East Operations Director for Transport and Teren Tan, who is responsible for delivering regionally aligned and internationally accepted Fire and Rescue Training Services in the Middle East, share the explicit benefits of having FRS training grounds within our regional airports.

Having a fire rescue training facility at an airport is an important proactive measure for the ongoing safety of passengers, airport employees and the surrounding community in case of emergencies. It is strongly recommended and in most regulatory cases required, to help ensure that the airport is prepared to respond to emergencies and to mitigate the impact of such incidents. How do you justify such capital investment?

Once established, training facilities operated and supported by the private sector can be of great benefit in ensuring access to a wider range of resources, such as specialised training equipment, experienced instructors, and advanced simulation technologies. In addition, public sector service companies can often bring international experience and knowledge of the latest training techniques and technologies and designing and delivering customised training programmes. In-house training can only take a fire service so far, building a comprehensive training programme that takes the best of local knowledge and that of wider, global experience and rehearsing it locally is the foundation for preparedness.

How FRS training facilities support the national vision

Quality training delivery at airport FRS facilities contribute to the national visions of the UAE and KSA by ensuring the development of highly skilled personnel – supporting nationalisation efforts, improving safety and security, supporting the development of self-sufficient national infrastructure and enhancing international competitiveness. By demonstrating a commitment to safety and security through effective training programmes, these countries can attract more international airlines and passengers, which can contribute to economic growth and development.

One example of this in the UAE, is that Dubai Airports have seen value in the ability to conduct regular training activities in line with their specific and regulatory requirements at their own training facility at Dubai World Central (DWC). The availability of having this facility is the enablement of ‘as real as you can get’ exposure for the fire service to what they may encounter on shift at any given time. These training activities available on site, in line with their operational requirements greatly reduces cost in terms of both time and resources.

Dubai Airports has also benefited from the ability to run their own initial firefighter skills acquisition courses – allowing them to attract, hire and employ national staff. An ability that no other airport in the UAE or KSA has at present.

Therefore, through investing in high-quality training programmes and on-site facilities, our region can strengthen its own aviation industry and this in turn supports broader economic and social development goals.

The overall benefits of FRS training facilities at airports

In addition to supporting the government vision through economic growth and development, having on-site training facilities for emergency personnel is of benefit for the following more general reasons:

Improved emergency response

Airports are vulnerable to a wide range of emergencies, including aircraft crashes, fuel spills and fires. With a fire rescue training facility on-site, airport personnel can receive specialised training in handling such emergencies, which can improve the overall emergency response time and reduce the potential for property damage and loss of life.

Firefighters extinguishing fire on aircraft at training ground

Realistic scenarios

Having an FRS training ground at a specific airport facility can allow FRS personnel to train in realistic scenarios that mimic the types of emergencies that can occur at that airport. This can include simulated aircraft crashes, fuel spills and other aviation-related emergencies.

Such training can help to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the emergency response team in handling such incidents. Access to different facilities can greatly increase service competence, whilst mixed training delivery approaches and the use of technology including using virtual and augmented reality to tackle real-life scenarios, can keep the conduct of training fresh and staff engaged.

Direct access to airport facilities

On a similar note, an airport facility can provide direct and consistent access to a range of resources that can be used in FRS training. This includes an understanding of the various types of aircraft that may be encountered, as well as the different hazards and risks associated with each type. In addition to fueling systems, other specialised equipment and so on.

Increased confidence in the use of equipment and resources that they may need to use in the event of an emergency

Ensuring that firefighters and rescue personnel are familiar with the site on which they are working and the resources available to them is extremely valuable in building confidence and saving time in a real-life emergency. Examples of this in training might be:

Firefighting techniques:
Training in the use of firefighting equipment and techniques, such as water systems, foam suppression systems, dry chemical agents, dual agent attack and High Reach Extendable Turret (HRET).

Search and rescue:
Training in the use of equipment and techniques to locate and extricate passengers and crew from aircraft in emergency situations.

Hazardous materials:
Training in the identification and handling of hazardous materials that may be present on aircraft or at airport facilities.

Training in the use of radios, communication protocol and other communication equipment to coordinate response efforts with other emergency responders.

Self-Contained breathing apparatus:
Training in the competent use of breathing apparatus utilised by fire service personnel to enter irrespirable environments to conduct firefighting and/or search and rescue without being exposing the respiratory system to harmful gases or smoke.



Compliance with regulations

As per ICAO guidance, all airports must have a plan for responding to emergencies, including the availability of fire and rescue services. Regional regulating bodies require having a fire rescue training facility on-site to ensure that they are prepared and can effectively respond to emergencies.

Cost savings and minimal disruptions

By having a fire rescue training facility on-site, airports can save money on training costs by eliminating the need to send personnel off-site for specialised training. In addition, FRS personnel can conduct training exercises without disrupting regular airport operations. This can help to reduce the cost of training and minimise any potential impact on airport services.

General community safety

An airport serves as a hub for the community and a fire rescue training facility on-site can provide additional support to the community in case of emergencies. If an emergency were to occur off the airport premises, airport personnel trained in fire rescue techniques could also be dispatched to provide aid.

The requirement for an on-site FRS training facility at an airport is of course a commitment, but there is no better alternative to ensure airports are prepared for a real-life emergency with well-trained staff confident in the best practise to tackle any scenario they may face on shift.

In addition, on-site facilities can support in wider economic and social goals, not least in ensuring international recognition of the safety and security of our local airports and continuing to fuel our economic and social goals. 

Samantha Rowles
Operations Director - Transport
Serco Middle East

Teren Tan
Senior Strategy & Solutions Manager
Serco Middle East