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RFFS Apparatus and Equipment

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Category: Emergency & Contingency Emergency and Contingency
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Content control: EUROCONTROL EUROCONTROL

RFFS Apparatus

The term RFFS Apparatus refers to the vehicles that are used by Rescue and Fire Fighting Services personnel for fire extinguishing and transportation purposes. These vehicles are interchangeably referred to as fire trucks, fire engines or fire appliances in different countries or territories.

Apparatus Requirements

Some specific factors relevant to aircraft and airport fire fighting lead to specific requirements for the apparatus used for this purpose:

  • An aircraft almost always carries some amount of fuel and/or lubricants so the danger of fire is virtually always present in an accident or incident.
  • Burning aircraft fuels rapidly produce very high temperatures.
  • Aircraft onboard fire fighting capabilities are very limited.
  • Hazardous cargo or large number of passengers can be in close proximity to large amounts of fuel.

Because of these factors, relevant regulations state the requirements that RFFS apparatus must be able to meet. The most important of these are:

  • The ability to discharge adequate quantities of extinguishing agents within a short period of time. The precise requirements are prescribed in relevant documents (e.g. EASA AMC and GM in the EU, CAP 168 in the UK, Federal Aviation Regulation Standard 139.317 in the USA)
  • The ability to operate effectively on both paved and unpaved areas. Airport RFF apparatus may need to be driven across terrain that would be difficult or impossible to transverse by typical structural fire apparatus.

Agent Application

In order to deploy the necessary amounts of fire extinguishing agents the vehicles are equipped with:

  • Turrets - usually mounted on the tops of the cabins or on the front bumpers. They can be operated manually or remotely and usually can discharge the extinguishing agents in various patterns.
  • Handlines - usually used to extinguish interior fires or when the turrets cannot reach the flames.
  • Ground-sweep and undertruck nozzles - used to lay a blanket or path of foam in front of the vehicle so that it can move further without being endangered.

Apparatus Types

Aircraft fire fighting vehicles are divided into three categories:

  • Rapid intervention vehicles - Rapid intervention vehicles can reach the accident site within a few minutes. They are very valuable for being able to attack the fires in their incipient stages and fires are often extinguished or controlled with such units prior to the arrival of larger fire fighting vehicles. Such vehicles are often capable of being operated by just one person.
  • Combined-agent vehicles - Combined-agent vehicles are capable of applying two different extinguishing agent simultaneously (e.g. foam and dry chemical) which gives them the ability to fight different types of fire simultaneously.
  • Major fire-fighting vehicles - Major fire fighting vehicles carry large quantities of water and foam concentrate and are capable of traversing rough terrain for off-runway operations.

Assuming that they are able to access the site, structural fire-fighting apparatus can also be used to fight aircraft fires with foam being the preferred suppression agent.

RFFS Equipment Types

RFFS personnel use a wide variety of equipment. This equipment can be divided into two major groups:

  • Forcible entry tools and equipment – used when the normal and emergency egress doors and hatches are jammed or otherwise inaccessible. Due to the ever-present danger of fire and explosion, the prompt and correct use of such tools may determine whether people will survive an accident. These can be:
    • Hand tools (such as screwdrivers, poles, axes, hatchets, etc.) that rely on human force to transmit power to the working end of the tool.
    • Power tools, divided into four major types classified by the medium used to generate force (electric, pneumatic, hydraulic, pneumo-hydraulic).
  • Supplementary equipment:
    • Repair plugs - used to plug leaking fuel or hydraulic fluid lines.
    • Salvage covers - used to cover jagged openings in order to prevent injuries to personnel and passengers and may also be used to designate collection points for equipment and personnel.
    • Ladders - used for the passage of personnel to and from elevated sections of an aircraft. They can be single or extension. The advantage of a single ladder is that they can be used by just one person. Extension ladders, on the other hand, may be used to access higher aircraft.
    • Air bags - used to lift or displace large objects (vehicles, heavy equipment and aircraft).
    • Portable electric generators - used to provide power to electrical equipment and can be a light source for illuminating forcible entry and rescue points on an aircraft.

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