Oct 25, 2019 in Research

Introduction

The role and function of fire safety engineer, sometimes known as fire protection engineers, happens to be the application of scientifically tested and proven principles and mechanisms in the determination of the effects of a fire and the reaction and behavior of people on the going off of the fire alarm with the aim of defining the correct mechanisms for the protection of people, property, and even the environment. As such, fire safety engineering gives a holistic approach to the avoidance of fires and welfare of people in a manner that is sustainable. As such, the services of fire safety engineer get required in almost every other sector of the economy since they liaise with other engineers and architects in designing and development of fire safety equipment and structures. One of the areas where the services get required is the segment of air transport in which the services get utilized not only in the designing of the airplanes but also in the designing of airports and airstrips where applicable. The scenario of designing an airport in order to make it safe with regard to fire out breaks happens to be the focus of this report.

This report is prepared is prepared in response to the concerns of Carmarthenshire County Council with regard to fire safety at the Pembrey airport. More specifically, the concern relates to the fact that Pembrey airport is expanding which means that the current fire safety facilities may be strained by the expansion and as a result of this, the developer in liaison with Carmarthenshire County Council must ensure that the development meets the minimum standards of fire safety. Information used in the completion of this reports was gathered from professional and academic sources. The academic sources include peer reviewed journals and books while the professional information was gathered from renowned professional fire safety engineering service providers in addition to the fire safety standards formulators with regard to British Standards on fire safety.

 
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Assumptions

As a the beginning point of this report, the assumption is that the Carmarthenshire County Council understands the fire safety standards as they apply to the expansion project at Pembrey airport. In a nutshell, British standards and regulations on fire safety for new, extended, or altered buildings stipulate that the Carmarthenshire County Council, which is the local authority in the case study, reserves the responsibility of ensuring that the fire safety requirements in this situation are met satisfactorily. The extension of Pembrey airport falls under the expansion and alteration on the current structures at the airport and as such it is bound by the rules. As a result of this, the local authority in the area must certify for the continuation of the construction project but again it must liaise with the building control department in the area. The control department will the provide fire safety engineer who will enforce the building regulations pertinent to the extension of the runway and the construction of custom warehouses in the airport alongside other structures. 

The second assumption is that the CCC and the proprietor, Captain Winston, are aware of and do understand the provisions of the relevant guiding regulations which include ADB, the BS 9999 of 2008, and BS 7974 alongside the relevant PD. In summary, ADB provides the procedures for the general construction of buildings. The British Standard 7974 of 2001 relates to the building regulations as they touch on application of fire safety engineering principles the designing and development of buildings. Lastly, the British Standard 9999 of 2008 as it touches and relates to the general provisions on fire safety precautions in the designing, development, management, and use of buildings. The rationale in this assumption is that any risk of fire on the newly expanded (or to be expanded) airport of Pembrey may result in litigations against the Carmarthenshire County Council in case any of the provisions on the stated documentation is neglected.

Context of the Report

The report is prepared in response to fire safety questions that may arise with regard to the planned expansion of Pembrey Airport in Welsh. The airport is currently held on a lease agreement of 35 years with the lessor being Carmarthenshire County Council and the lessee being Captain Winston Thomas. The region in which the airport is located is set on a strategic path of development beginning with transport links which entail a road network in the region. The development of the road network in the region will bring with it other developments including real estate and hotel and catering services. With the airport being located at the center of Wales’ fastest growing tourism and leisure center, the development of the road network is likely to bring with it a boom in the region and the demand for air transport services is also projected to increase.

Captain Winston Thomas and Carmarthenshire County Council are excited about the prospects and it is for this reason that there are suggestions in support of the extension of the runway by an extra 2,400 meters. This extension will allow the new, bigger, and better airbus A320 to land and take off from Pembrey airport. The development will also cater for VIP corporate jets, and fire fighter trucks and cars. In addition to all that, Pembrey Airport will then start to accept large military aircraft including the C130 for refueling, logistics, and training.

The Problem

The developments coming to Carmarthenshire County Council are welcome and there is no doubt in that. The problem is that the county council has to worry about the fire safety for the people that will be using the expanded Pembrey airport, the property within and close to the airport, and the environment. As such, the county council is seeking answers to two critical questions which cover the risk of a major fire in the new freight and customs warehouse and its impact on the environment. Secondly, the county would be worried if an air craft caught fire on the runway and how that would impact on the environment.

Environmental Impact Assessment with Regard to a Major Fire in the New Freight and Customs Warehouse

Pembrey Airport is considering expanding and one of the areas that will be impacted by this development is the cargo handling and storage section of the enterprise. The enterprise will be receiving more freight some of which will not be from within the taxation boundaries of the region and as a result, the airport will start handling imports and exports that must go through the custom warehouse. While this brings with it a lot of business, the airport also has to worry about a variety of factors including the risk of a major fire outbreak in the new freight and customs warehouse. In such a situation, the Carmarthenshire County Council and the administration of Pembrey airport has to carry out a critical assessment of the environmental impact of such an occurrence.

One thing that come out of the involvement of the customs warehouse is that in case of a fire in this section would put the airport, the citizens expecting whose goods get affected by the fire, and the international community at cross roads. The basis in this argument is that the mentioned communities make up the entire business environment of the airport and this environment must be protected from any eventualities that may be caused by a major fire affecting the custom warehouse. This is because the air travel industry happens to be one faced by high risk hinged on the confidence of the customers and the general public and anything that indicates signs of the endangering of the customers and their property threatens the business position of the airport and the tax authorities in that they all may lose the customer base never to recover again. To the engineer therefore, the designing of the custom warehouse must attend to this environment by ensuring that the goods held in the warehouse are not at any risk of being consumed by a fire.

The second impact that a major fire in the custom warehouse would have on the environment relates to the elements of the natural environment in its contemporary meaning. In other words, this relates to how a major fire in the custom warehouse would impact the surroundings. On that note, it is important to note that the effect may depend on items stored in the warehouse and secondly, the impact may be viewed from the perspective of release of carbon into the atmosphere and its impacts on the environment including global warming and carbon dropping on flora and fauna as well as water bodies. The carbon may result into lost business through harm that it causes to the ecosystem hence making it unattractive as a tourist attraction. To deal with this impact, the fire safety engineering personnel must ensure that the facilities get designed in such a way that the outbreak of a fire remains at the minimum and in case of one that the damage gets reduced to a minimum. Probably, the custom warehouse can be designed in a manner that seeks to reduce the emission of carbon into the environment.

With regard to the types of materials that get handled by the custom warehouse, it is important to note that at times the airport may be handling dangerous materials that may accelerate the impact of the fire. Firstly, the goods held at the warehouse may include flammable materials such as sprays that may worsen the impact on the environment. Secondly, the warehouse may contain items such as lithium batteries which have been blamed for causing warehouse fires in many regions across the world and most importantly, rechargeable lithium batteries have been linked to major fires on air planes in the past. With this knowledge in mind, the fire safety engineer must get the design right with regard to the materials and items set to be stored in the warehouse. Technological advancements provide solutions for dealing with highly flammable materials and materials that may worsen the situation. As a result, the fire safety engineers may incorporate these innovative ideas in the design and development of custom warehouses to reduce the negative impact that a fire in that area may have on the environment.

Another reason why it is a major concern is that a fire outbreak in the custom warehouse may come at a time when the warehouse is full of items which means that more and more carbon would be released into the smoky skies. In case the weather is not friendly it might cause smog and this reduced visibility in the skies. As a result of this, navigation of planes in the skies may become difficult hence endangering the lives of those on board. The smog may also take long periods of time to clear and as a result, business in the region may be hampered for long periods of time. Additionally, the smog may include acidic components that may also fall on the flora and fauna through precipitation wash-down and as a result killing living organisms in the region. 

Environmental Impact Assessment with Regard to a Freight Aircraft Fire on the Runway

Cases of a freight aircraft fire on the runway are not common but when they happen, they can be disastrous. As such, this is one of the reasons as to why fire safety engineering for airports happens to be special. For instance, on landing a large plane like the airbus A380 or the military plane C130 the wheels need to be sprayed with water to reduce the chances that the friction cause by the landing impact can cause a fire on the plane. Similarly, freight aircraft is often heavier than passenger planes and the impact is also greater. As a result, there are procedures that are meant to prevent any chances of the plane catching fire upon landing. In case it happens, its impacts on the environment can be as disastrous as in the instance described below.

Air pollution ranks first when it comes to an accident such as this. When a freight plane catches fire on the runway, the plane burns down including its tires and the fuel in it. It burns with the cargo inside and also scorches the runway especially if made of bitumen like many runways. As a result of this, the burning cargo, plane, and oil products result into the emission of a concoction of gases ranging from carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur dioxide among others. This takes place in addition to the damaged runway and it may result into greater environmental implications especially when noted that the gases release into the air can get washed down by precipitation hence ending up in rivers and the soils. Plants get damaged and other living organisms get killed. The acidity of the soils in the affected regions increases and in a worst case scenario, walls and roofs of surrounding building get corroded by the acidic gases as they wash down into the ground. To a fire safety engineer, the objective should be in attempting to ensure that the fire doesn’t start in the first place and once that is lost, then the deal should be on reducing damage that it causes.

In addition to air pollution, the burning of a freight plane while on the runway leads into a dangerous environment for the landing of other planes. The runway may be broken leading to a shorter runway making it difficult for other planes to land and take off. Secondly, the materials from the plane may explode and leave objects scattered all over the area. Some of the materials may even be carried by the wind and deposited in the neighborhood. As a result of this, the fire leaves a polluted environment with polluted soil and water in addition to the soot-filled walls. On top of that, flammable objects such as canisters my hit walls and burn other objects in the area including houses due to the quicker spread of the fire as compared to a fire that is burning indoors.

Conclusion

Based on the environmental assessment of the impact of fire in an airport, the Carmarthenshire County Council must consider all the regulations that guide the issue of fire safety for extended structures. This is because the extended Pembrey airport will be handling more cargo and larger planes including the airbus A380 and the C130 military plane. This means that the airport stands at a higher risk of fire outbreaks as compared to a time when the airport only handles small planes. British Standard 9999: 2008 and 7974: 2001 provide clear guideline on how to construct the extended runway to prevent fires and reduce damage in case of one.

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