Page 19 - July 2020
P. 19

Liveryman Simon Petts, CFO London Gatwick Airport outlines the major impact COVID-19 has had on the airport.
 In the early days and weeks of what we now know as the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact upon the Fire & Rescue Service here at London Gatwick was limited to daily meetings with our Stable Operations Team, Public Health England, South East Coast Ambulance Service and others. Primarily, this meeting’s agenda focused on how we would manage the possibility of COVID-19 cases arriving into the UK. For my part, I had a particular interest in the alerting process for such cases and potential controls required to be developed for our responding crews should there be a need for medical intervention. (The Fire Service crews respond to around 800 medical calls a year).
Having been at Gatwick for a significant period of time (I can barely believe the figure myself),
I, along with a number of my colleagues, have been through a number of events that have generated periods of disruption and anxieties for the world of commercial aviation; SARs, 9/11, Avian Influenza, Swine Flu, Ebola, 7/7, Terrorism.......and a few others. I think it’s fair to say that none of those came anywhere near the effects being experienced as a result of COVID-19.
As the days and weeks moved on it became evident that the aviation world was about to hit a number of significant challenges. We began to see suspected cases entering the UK and before too much longer COVID-19 had firmly established itself within our borders.
Fast forward to today’s picture, prior to COVID-19 Gatwick was operating at or around 47 million passengers per annum from the busiest single runway in the world. To watch this operation in full swing
on a busy day is quite something. The toughest game of Tetris you will ever witness, and our normal role is to incident manage in amongst it all.
To give you some perspective of the impact, yesterday’s passenger figures (in the last week of May) were 35 in total!
Gatwick Fire & Rescue Service has had to rapidly revise its operating model. The Licence to operate the airport is partly dependent upon the adequate provision of the Rescue & Firefighting Services; if our trained staff were to fall below certain levels this might be a considerable risk to Gatwick’s ability to open its runway. Initial fears were that we would see our numbers greatly affected by the loss of staff due to self-isolation or infection. This factor alone drove an early lockdown of our teams, access to them being restricted long before the direction from central government. We developed several initiatives around social distancing while attempting to maintain our critical functions.
Gatwick set in motion a number of workstreams to develop an operating model with greatly reducing passenger numbers and increasing flight restrictions. It began a phased scaling down of its terminal buildings with chunks of infrastructure being removed from service on a daily basis. As those of us who work within the Fire Sector understand, this doesn’t simply remove the risk; often it
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