I am at the IAFPA Conference at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore, which is proving to be a fascinating and extremely well-organised event in a fantastic setting.
Today, we heard from Changi Airport about how the Icelandic volcano and subsequent closure of European airspace affected its operations. Thousands of passengers were stranded at Changi but unlike European airports, flights continued to other destinations, so the airport remained operational throughout, presenting some continuity challenges for an airport not designed to hold a large number of passengers for a protracted period.
The airport focused on three key areas: A fast and co-ordinated response; basic needs of customers must be met with friendliness and warmth (food, water, a clean environment and basic comforts are essential); and clear and regular communication are vital – when people are not kept informed, they begin to speculate. It was impossible not to compare the Changi Airport response to a mass passenger stranding with a similar incident at Moscow's main airports recently, as outlined by Lina Kolesnikova in our current issue. Although circumstances at the latter were somewhat different in that the cancelled flights were caused by a power outage and severe weather, it is interesting to note that food supplies were unreliable, air quality and hygiene facilities deteriorated and riot police were called in to deal with unhappy passengers.
We also heard a presentation from Huang Weikang, Operations Commander in charge of the Qantas A380 incident on November 4, as well as a description by Roz Wheatley, Group Emergency Response Manager for Qantas, on the airline’s perspective. Roz took the opportunity to thank everyone at Changi publicly for their efforts during this incident.
In the next issue of CRJ, we plan to look at the Icelandic volcano in terms of resilience and emergency planning, as well as to publish a report on the Qantas incident.
I will also be writing a profile of Singapore’s fire, police and resilience in general. To that end, I met with Peter Lim, now nearly two years into his post of Commissioner of the Singapore Civil Defence Force. I was also lucky enough to visit the near-legendary SCDF training centre, where I got a close-up view of its training tower in action. The tower has just been updated and a new three-dimensional computer simulation for training purposes was very impressive. I must apologise to Major Kanavelan for my (ahem) extreme reaction to a surprise simulated explosion...
Tomorrow I am looking forward to meeting the Singapore Police to learn more about their counter-terrorism operations and business counter-terror resilience, as well as to hearing presentations by John Trew on hijacking and aviation terrorism and from Changi Airport Group on Singapore’s water rescue plan for aviation disasters.
I won’t go into any more details here, as there will be in-depth articles covering these subjects in the next editions of IAFPA Bulletin and Crisis Response Journal. A tour of Changi Airport should also make for a good article. There's a lot more in the pipeline!