The City of Baltimore opened the then-named Friendship International Airport in 1950. The Airport Fire & Rescue Department was formed in 1958, under the authority of the U.S. Air Force Research and Development Wing. In the early 1960’s, the Airport Fire & Rescue Department became part of the Baltimore City Fire Department.
The State of Maryland purchased Friendship International Airport from the City of Baltimore in 1972, and members of the Airport Fire Rescue Service become State employees in 1974. The Airport was renamed Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) in 1973, and the Fire Rescue Service was renamed the BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Department (BWI FRD) in 1999, this new designation better reflecting the diverse mission and full-scale operation of the BWIFRD, and the services it provides to Airport employees and patrons.
We have developed the site to provide you with as much information as possible about who we are and what we do for the traveling public and airport community. The men and women of the BWI Fire Department will embrace current and future challenges to insure that public fire and life safety is maintained throughout the community to the highest possible levels.
The BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Department’s Fire Suppression Division provides fire-fighting and rescue services for aircraft and other equipment, and for more than 100 buildings in the Airport area. These range from the main passenger terminal, cargo buildings, hotels and parking areas, to the rail station and fuel farm. Additional services are provided to surrounding counties through a mutual aid agreement. This division also assists the Emergency Medical Services, Prevention and Training divisions with inspections, training and other departmental tasks.
Fire-Fighting/Rescue Services mitigates fires, conducts rescues, handles hazardous materials incidents and responds to any other type of emergency that threatens life safety, property loss or environmental protection. These emergency responses are conducted by trained personnel on specialized firefighting or rescue apparatus that can deliver water, foam, ladders or rescue tools to the incident scene.
Mutual Aid responds off airport property to assist other counties or cities at large incidents or to respond if they are the closest available emergency service providers to the incident.
The Fire Prevention Division provides fire and life safety inspection programs for BWI and Martin State (MTN) airports. These programs include the review of building plans for new and existing construction to ensure that all fire, life safety and building codes are enforced. Additional programs include the inspection, testing and maintenance of fire suppression and detection systems within the airport terminal and other buildings. Other areas of inspection include fuel trucks and the airport fuel farm. Public fire and life safety educational programs also are provided to the airport community, including fire drills and training in evacuation procedures and fire extinguisher use. This division also is responsible for fire investigations to determine whether a fire was accidental or arson-related.
Fire & Life Safety Inspection Program
The Fire & Life Safety Inspection program ensures that all buildings and structures are safe to occupy from a fire and life safety code standpoint. Each leased tenant area and all Maryland Aviation Administration (MAA) areas are inspected at least annually.
Life Safety & Building Code Enforcement
Life Safety & Building Code Enforcement conducts inspections of new construction throughout all phases of construction to ensure that the building or structure is being built according to the approved construction plans.
After receiving 100% designed construction plans, Life Safety & Building Code Enforcement staff reviews them to ensure that they comply with all adopted building and fire codes before they are released for actual construction. Plans not meeting code requirements are rejected for modifications and re-submittal.
Permits are issued for a variety of activities to ensure the enforcement of building and fire codes. Examples include building installation permits which require that construction plans be reviewed before being issued. Other permits are issued for welding and burning operations and special use activities such as festivals, cookouts and fund raising events such as the Plane Pull.
Fire Code/Life Safety Inspections
Fire code/life safety inspections are conducted annually by fire inspectors in accordance with the fire and life safety inspection program. Inspections identify such things as electrical hazards, poor housekeeping, improper storage of flammable and combustible materials, etc. Violations are cited and are re-inspected within 30 days to ensure that corrective action is taken.
Fire Suppression & Detection
Fire suppression and detection systems are installed in buildings and structures to ensure the early detection of fire and the activation of fire suppression systems to control or extinguish the fire. These systems also notify the occupants to evacuate the area. Examples of such systems are fire sprinklers and the fire alarm system. These systems are required by code to be inspected visually weekly, monthly, quarterly and semi-annually to ensure that they are operationally ready and functional. These same systems are required by code to be tested physically at prescribed intervals to ensure that they are functional. Examples include the weekly running of fire pumps and emergency generators or the activation of a sprinkler system and the actual flow of water.
Each fuel truck operated by fueling contractors or airlines is inspected in accordance with FAA-approved inspection criteria. These inspections are conducted quarterly. Inspection forms are used to identify proper warning and no smoking signs, fuel hoses needing repair, fuel leaks, etc. If a truck fails, it is placed out of service until repairs are made.
Fuel farm areas are inspected each quarter for the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids. Any leaks in pipes or pumps or electrical hazards are cited and re-inspected within 24 hours.
Public Fire & Life Safety Education
Public fire and life safety educational programs are offered to the airport community to promote fire safety. Such programs might include work place evacuation procedures, extension cord use, holiday decoration precautions, how to report a fire, etc.
Fire drills are required by State law. Each tenant and MAA area on and off airport property is required to have evacuation procedures in place and plans posted. Drills are conducted each quarter and are witnessed and documented by the Fire & Rescue Department.
Evacuation of the public areas of the terminal can be a very complex operation using the fire alarm and public address system. The Fire & Rescue Department currently is providing training and refresher training to fire, police, Operations, Terminal and Transportation Services, and Consolidated Dispatch Center dispatchers to ensure that everyone knows the proper procedures.
Fire extinguisher training is provided on an as requested basis. Personnel working in hazardous areas are trained on extinguisher identification, proper use and techniques for fighting fires.
Fires in buildings, structures or parking lots on airport property are investigated by trained personnel, who will attempt to identify the fire’s origin and cause. This will help further identify whether the fire was accidental or arson-related.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provides EMS services for the visitors and tenants of the airport, as well as the surrounding area. These services include basic life support and advanced life support, as well as special operations in mass casualty incidents, hazardous materials and other technical operations in need of medical support. Training objectives include continuing education for the re-certification of fire departmental personnel, as well as public education in basic life support and the use of Automated External Defibrillators.
All fire department personnel are trained in basic life support. The components of basic life support are basic airway management, CPR, bleeding control, fracture management and management of soft tissue injuries. Also part of basic life support is basic management of a patient. Advanced life support is medical care at the paramedic level. Care includes advanced airway management, cardiac defibrillation, intravenous access as well as medication administration. Many hours are spent completing the training required to maintain these skill levels.
Mass casualty incidents are a major concern of the airport as well as the fire department. Fire department staff train constantly to maintain a high level of readiness to be able to handle these situations. In emergencies, care is given in two phases: a rapid assessment of patients followed by treatment and transport operations. The Fire & Rescue Department also depends on local communities in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, as well as Baltimore City, for mutual aid in these instances.
The EMS Division is responsible for all medical care during a hazardous materials incident. This includes pre/post entry medical exams for fire department personnel making entry to an incident; decontamination and care for patients involved in the incident; as well as the transport of contaminated patients to specialty referral hospitals.
Technical operations involve any operation in which the fire department may be involved. Examples of these are confined space rescue, stabilization and extraction of injured patients in unsafe environments or situations, weapons of mass destruction and terrorist attacks.
Training is responsible for the design, development, and delivery of training involving all aspects of fire-fighting operations, including: aircraft rescue and fire-fighting, structural fire-fighting, hazardous materials operations and related emergency medical services. In addition to these responsibilities, the Training Division ensures that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements are met by tracking and documenting all aspects of aircraft rescue and fire-fighting operations. The Training Division also is responsible for the development and delivery of airport firefighter training to mutual aid departments in and around the airport property. Both airport employees and airline employees are given the opportunity to participate in a variety of training classes. The Training Division ensures that fire-fighting personnel are trained to the National Fire Protection Association’s standards relating to fire department officer, fire prevention professionals, and airport and structural fire-fighting.
Before entering live fire situations, Fire & Rescue Department personnel receive extensive training on the specialized equipment they will need to operate to perform their jobs. Starting with protective clothing, firefighters understand and demonstrate how to utilize personal protective equipment to provide the highest level of protection. It is equally important to learn how a fire is going to behave in order to predict situations that may already be out of control or that have the potential to be life threatening. Hoses and appliances are reviewed so personnel can get the water from the fire engine to the fire. Other items of importance include: securing utility controls such as gas and electricity, proper ventilation to remove smoke and gases, forcible entry techniques for entering secured buildings and advanced rescue techniques.
The hazards aircraft present to responding firefighters are there from the time they leave the station to respond to an emergency. Training involves alerting personnel to inherent dangers, along with evacuation operations, aircraft shutdown procedures, system locations and specific fire-fighting techniques. Training in strategies and tactics involving a wide variety of aircraft emergencies help personnel ensure that the quickest, safest route is taken.
Training personnel to respond to structural fires includes information on establishing a water supply, relay operations, apparatus placement, multi-line pumping, and fire pump operation. Fire officer training also is emphasized during this phase of training, as well as the aircraft phase of training, to ensure that both leadership and decision-making are put to the test.
Hazardous Materials Operations
The primary emphasis in dealing with hazardous materials is rescue and personal protection. Product identification and preparing personnel to conduct mitigating operations in the appropriate level of protective clothing is the emphasis in this training area. Because the storage and transport of hazardous materials involves both structures and aircraft, knowledge of structures and aircraft is paramount in handling these types of emergencies safely.
Current FAA requirements mandate that training be provided in all of the subject areas listed above. FAA Advisory Circulars provide guidance on how that training should be conducted. One of these critical regulations involves live fire training, which is to be conducted at least once a year. In addition, drills are conducted every three years. These training exercises are critical to ensure the safety of the traveling public.
Since the Fire & Rescue Department staff knows that they must rely on mutual aid to help respond to many emergencies, training is conducted for the personnel of nearby fire departments. Topics covered include airport operations and resources available to safely handle airport emergencies.