Did you know? An airport fire-station operates 24 hours with every piece of equipment and all personnel ready to go, All The Time. Every day. This is just one thing we learnt when we visited the main KLIA Airport Fire & Rescue the weekend of 29th August 2020. Covid-19 has impacted many organisations we don’t normally think about. Hotels are suffering, along with the non-flying airlines. Airports are almost empty and their safety and security staff are frontliners who must be on the job. That’s why we were so excited to learn about a Staycation at the KLIA Sama-Sama hotel that included a visit to the KLIA Airport Fire & Rescue Service.
Staycation KLIA Airport Fire & Rescue
After checking in to our 9th floor room, we headed down to join nine other families of four to leave for our trip airside. Kuala Lumpur International Airport has three runways, each with its own Fire & Rescue Service Station. We were headed for the main one, the largest of the three. This is located ‘airside’, so you must pass through airport security to enter. Everyone had to get off the bus for temperature and ID checks and we were fitted with pink wrist tags.
We were greeted by ‘Uncles’ Rizal and Nizam and their personnel. They were as glad to see us as we were to be there because they usually have no time to welcome visitors. Covid-19 travel restrictions have meant a huge reduction in flights, so they were happy to share the important work they do. The appearance of a yellow Foam Tender Fire Truck rounding the corner with sirens blaring set the tone. They followed up with a demonstration of how far the foam can travel and how it is used to fight an aircraft fire.
Other Fire Tenders and equipment
After dividing everyone into smaller groups of two families, we headed off to see for ourselves what happens. We were the first lucky group to have a ride in the big yellow Foam Tender, one family at a time. Then we checked out the Foam Tender simulator and a multi-purpose fire tender. Apart from the expected hoses and a built-in tank that holds 3600 litres of water which is pumped through the hoses, they had other surprising equipment. We saw the chainsaw, a portable circular saw and the ‘jaws of life’ used for cutting through metal, including during vehicle accidents. One eagle eyed young one also spied the grab tools used for catching snakes!
Then we learnt about the uniforms and personal equipment. The clothes and boots are really heavy and combined with a breathing tank (another 9kg) breathing mask and helmet the men have to be really strong. Not only that, they must be able to wear them all properly and be in position within 2 minutes.
Train like a firefighter
Their training includes crawling through a three story ‘smokehouse’, with small spaces, obstructions and sharp turns and level changes. Where they can’t fit through a space, it’s necessary to remove the mask and breathing tanks to carry them through. Then they have to put them on again. All this must be done in a very hot building filled with thick black smoke. We got to try out a very modified version, with heat, but only light smoke. It really required focus to get through safely, even with guidance from outside the cage. One of our little group even had a second round!
We learnt to use a powder fire extinguisher, commonly seen in public buildings. Smaller ones are available for home use.
PASS is what we must remember.
- PULL the pin.
- AIM the nozzle.
- SQUEEZE the handle.
- SWEEP the powder over the fire.
Even the kids were able to do this and were rightly proud of their achievements.
The Grand Finale
To round off the programme, we saw what happens if you throw water on a kitchen fire. Even if you know what happens, it’s very scary. Time to get a fire blanket along with the fire extinguisher and keep it in the kitchen. Thank you to the wonderful people at the KLIA Airport Fire & Rescue Service. You were not only very welcoming, but we learnt a lot about how you operate and how we can follow your example in our own homes.
We were the first group of the two currently booked to experience this behind the scenes action. It’s only made possible by the current Covid-19 travel restrictions which have reduced aircraft traffic to a fraction of ‘normal’. The rules are so strict that if even one of their vehicles is unavailable, planes can’t take-off or land, so they take their responsibility very seriously. This is why they normally have no time at all to accept visitors. Thank you ‘Uncles’ Rizal and Nizam for the wonderful and informative experience!
This is the first time the service has welcomed visitors as they have to be focused fully on the safety of the airport. All the equipment has to be available at full strength, they must be constantly maintained like all the aircraft.
We had the opportunity to speak to Shirley Hoo, Sama-Sama Hotel’s Director of Marketing Communication. She’s the driving force behind this inaugural Airport Staycation program in collaboration with Malaysia Airport. She revealed that interest in the first Staycation was so huge, they are working to organise three more opportunities, one each month until December. The two dates in August were oversubscribed within 2 hours so we were lucky to get our spot.
If you’d like to get more information about the hotel, check their website. Call Ms Hoo at +603 87782326 or +016 2234848 for more information about future programmes and to book a staycation. Our review of the hotel, and the rest of the Staycation programme is on the way. Watch this space for a video of our experiences, including the smokehouse.