London Luton Airport is the UK’s 5th largest passenger airport where almost 10 million passengers pass through annually. The airport has experienced a 400% rise in passenger numbers in the last decade and to keep up with this demand for air travel the airport has undergone a number of restructuring programmes. Although adding additional sections to the terminal has helped service its passengers, the varying fire strategies for the different sections has resulted in issues for both fire safety and business operations. Following a complete analysis of the airport’s existing fire strategy, FDS Consult UK was engaged to provide a cohesive strategy that covered the airport in its entirety and addressed operational issues:
- A fundamental issue of airport fire safety is the evacuation from air side to land side as all passengers need to be re-processed through security, causing significant delays if a false alarm has been activated. FDS Consult UK developed a strategy of evacuating occupants located on the air side to the safety of the piers so that if a false alarm should occur they can be moved back relatively quickly to minimise disruption.
- The airport was experiencing frequent false alarm activation and therefore FDS Consult UK implemented a 5 minute investigation period with a detection system that will identify a real fire quickly and reduce the requirement for unnecessary evacuation. A new anti-tamper, vandal proof smoke alarm system was also recommended to further decrease the chance of false alarm activation
- Undertaking a full compartmentation assessment and breaking the airport up into zones allows for quicker and more efficient evacuation as it enables a smaller number of occupants to be dealt with at one time. FDS Consult UK used CFD modelling and designed a smoke control system to justify the extended evacuation periods and this has significantly improved business continuity. The fire compartmentation also prevents the baggage system from being halted which was further adding to the disruption and delays caused by false alarms.
- The holistic fire strategy developed by FDS Consult UK was designed with the future in mind and simplifies the approval process for future building schemes. FDS Consult UK also provided education to the airport on elements to consider when planning future developments such as the proximity of food service outlets to smoke detectors for example.
- Due to their thorough understanding of the airport FDS Consult UK provide ongoing training to senior staff on evacuation strategies and quarterly compliance checks in co-ordination with the on-site fire teams.
- The strategy also incorporated the airport’s new retail zone. FDS Consult UK used CFD modelling to reduce the number of stair cores from ten to five therefore creating additional valuable revenue-generating retail space for the airport. This also saved significantly on construction costs.
The end result was a fire strategy that provided a single approach that made safety simpler and more efficient, and enhanced business continuity.