In this report, I have explored issues that should be put into consideration if a severe sandstorm hits the Abu Dhabi airport. The issues I have addressed are meant to ensure that the airport remains operational during the disaster and that the recovery process is fast and efficient. At times, the airport can be brought to a standstill, especially if a prior contingency plan is not in place.
Numerous problems are associated with airport sandstorms. It not only causes delays in departures, but also health-related problems, particularly to people with breathing-related health complications. When the airport is hit by a sandstorm, it experiences major operational issues. There is operational stress resulting from driving difficulties. Businesses in the airport are left with no option, but to close down until the weather recedes. This kind of environment poses health risks to passengers, in particular to the respiratory system of victims.
When the weather recedes, various activities need to be carried out to bring the airport back to normalcy. When a contingency plan exists, then the process is streamlined. Passengers need to be made aware of sandstorm dangers. To bring about faster recovery, it is prudent for the airport to seek help of relevant local authorities. Any affected passenger should be given medical attention to avoid health complications.
In the summary and recommendations section, I delve into lessons that can be learnt from such occurrence and the most appropriate measures to avoid a standstill in case of a future sandstorm at the Abu Dhabi airport. Creation of a comprehensive sandstorm plan ensures disruptive events are kept at minimum. It also ensures that a reliable means of communication is used to relay information to passengers about their safety. The airport should acquire resilient equipment and resources to deal with such eventualities. More support should be accorded to stranded passengers to ensure that they do not expose themselves to controllable dangers.
Sandstorm in the Airport
A sandstorm is basically a cloud of blowing dust and sand. It occurs when cool air passes over hot ground to create instability in the immediate air above it. Wind speed increases above the normal speed threshold required to transport and lift surface particles. A sandstorm associated with a gust front looks like a wall of swirling sand. In situations when there is atmospheric instability like the Abu Dhabi airport, the height can reach as high as 20,000 feet. Sandstorms usually move materials all over the place. Dust and light sand particles are suspended and carried to greater heights by the wind. Sand particles vibrate as the speed of the wind increases bouncing along to cause dislodgement of other particles. During a sandstorm, large particles of sand are blown along the ground. The Abu Dhabi airport can encounter sandstorms due to desertification that is the major casual factor. Sandstorms do not normally occur at night due to diurnal variation in wind speed.
Weather conditions that result in a sandstorm include dense dusty storm and strong winds. Such a weather condition presents a significant operational challenge to the airport's transport system. As a manager, I would ensure that appropriate measures are put in place to curb negative impacts. Ensuring that workers at the airport and specifically the special operations team at the airport are equipped with pertinent tools and skills so as to respond more effectively to such periods of bad weather is critical. The Abu Dhabi airport is evidently capacity-constrained. Therefore, without realistic prospects of improving the capacity, the airport is vulnerable to be hit adversely by bad weather conditions compared to other airports in the world.
As a manager, it is important to ensure that the airport collaborates with other pertinent partners to operate and design a plan that is more responsive to requirements of passengers. Improving resiliency of the airport in case of disruption due to bad weather should be given more attention. Dense dusty storm as well as strong winds blowing in the airport result into all incoming flights being transferred to other safer airports. All outgoing flights are halted by the sandstorm until the weather condition improves. There is reduced visibility of up to 500 meters (Sand storm, 2014). In some areas, there is no visibility whatsoever. Conditions like these prevent people from driving. Others are stuck in airport malls. Normally, the dusty storm kicks up north-western wind at a speed of approximately 50 kilometres per hour. Storms and dust cause a high level of air pollution, resulting in cancelation of air flights and rescheduling of other flights. Passengers with heart and lung diseases are the most affected. Asthma victims, children, and pregnant mothers are as well vulnerable.
Adverse weather conditions have a negative impact on operations of the airport. The following section presents some of the issues that might arise due a sandstorm at the Abu Dhabi airport.
Sandstorms will most likely result in airport disruption and closure. To ensure that the airport remains operational, I would ensure that an aid team is standby to help passengers. I would also ensure the team is well-equipped with necessary tools to deliver their mandate.
Blowing dust resulting from a sandstorm and gusty winds makes it difficult for one to drive in the airport. Drivers are forced to be more cautious and to adjust according to the road conditions. Sometimes, drivers slow down when visibility is limited. At times, hazard lights on cars prove to be not functional due to dust. Gusty winds pose another driving risk because they can make lighter vehicles swerve or even move suddenly, causing accidents. As a manager, I would ensure that drivers are informed on the importance of driving slowly with the headlights on. I would ensure that drivers are informed on the importance of signalling while driving and on the necessity to avoid making sudden moves. It is also important to warn drivers that they have to be prepared to surprises like debris blown about by gusty winds.
It is evident that blowing winds can affect the vehicle's air filter by clogging it with dust that slows down its performance. During extreme instances, sand can enter the fuel and brake lines, causing mechanical problems. As a manager, I would ensure that vehicles used inside the airport are regularly serviced. Such servicing should include changing the engine oil and the air filter. When the dust storm recedes, I would ensure that appropriate steps are taken to de-sand the air filters. Such activities would ensure that the airport is operational and that no major incidences occur due to a sandstorm.
During a sandstorm, most improvement projects undertaken inside the airport are halted. With reduced visibility, it is close to impossible to carry out such projects. Companies need to be extra cautious to ensure that employees are safe. Reports indicate that most workers are not impressed when forced to work under such conditions. Restaurants and other service businesses within the airport experience pressure during such times. It becomes unpleasant to work under such conditions because most businesses close their outdoor areas. To ensure that the storm does not cause major damage, I would ensure that businesses operating in the airport have set out plans on how to deal with such disasters to ensure that customers do not get harmed.
Another issue caused by sandstorms is health complications. Sandstorms are more than mere dust. The normal course dust reaches nose, throat, and mouth while finer dust can get deeper into the human body. It affects sensitive organs of the respiratory system such as lungs and heart. Smaller dust particles have been proved to present a great potential to cause detrimental harm to the health of a victim. People with pre-existing health conditions such as breathing-related problems like emphysema and asthma are usually at a greater risk. To curb these problems and ensure that the airport remains operational, I would ensure the airport is well-equipped with health facilities and tools to reduce associated health problems(The National, 2014).
Once the weather has receded, various tasks should be taken to recover normal operations in the airport.
Passengers and pertinent stakeholders should be made aware of the local climatology as well as the weather forecast in the region (Gulf News, 2014). Airport schedules should be made and designed so as to avoid periods when sandstorms are most likely to occur. Creating such kind of awareness helps with faster restoration of affairs to normalcy when the weather recedes. It also helps in enlightening people on the most appropriate measures to take in case they are caught up in such a scenario.
Seek Local Authorities' Aid
Local authorities can greatly help in ensuring that things get back to normalcy faster. As a manager, I can liaise with the local authorities to provide assistance in any way that is within their reach. Such help can be in the form of providing security and police officers to man checkpoints and control traffic to ensure that the recovery process does not experience a deadlock.
Dealing with Consequences
The faster the airport task force deals with consequences of sandstorm, the faster the recovery process is. Activities to ensure this include blowing sand off aircraft operating surfaces. It also includes replacing any damaged part of aircrafts. Vehicles used within the airport should also be serviced to ensure that the air filters and other parts that could have been affected by the dust are replaced.
Given serious health complications that sandstorms cause, it is important to come up with prudent measures to protect victims from potential health problems by providing health care services at the airport. Items such as dust masks are essential in ensuring that people are not blocked from carrying on their usual activities when the weather recedes. If serious injuries or health complications are experienced during the storm, further medical care should be sought to avoid aggravation of the situation.
Summary and Recommendations
Many useful lessons can be learnt from this event. It also serves to enlighten the airport management on the best measures to take in the future to avoid major damages. The management learns the importance of preparing well in advance for poor weather to ensure that potential disruptive events are kept to a manageable minimum. Positive steps taken by the management ensure that the airport becomes more resilient in the future. The following section presents a list of summary and recommendations.
The first step to be prioritised should be creation of a sandstorm management plan in the airport. Enhanced sandstorm plan ensures that the airport is not brought to a standstill. It also reduces the number of disruptive events by placing preventive measures long before the sandstorm occurs. With an effective sandstorm plan, the recovery time decreases drastically.
Review of Contingency Planning
The airport needs to review its general contingency planning and processes. The review ensures that the airport uses the most up-to-date measures to deal with the crisis. It also puts the airport in a better position in terms of dealing with uncertain happenings and eventualities that are natural or beyond its control. Streamlining the control structures that govern the airport is critical in ensuring that there are no delays in services delivery. It also ensures that controllable delays do not occur at the top management level when delegating duties at a time the airport faces a crisis.
It is highly recommended that the airport acquires more resilient tools capable of dealing with sandstorm crisis effectively. Engaging the local authority and government is a prudent step towards this. Relevant states should provide the required capital to acquire resilient equipment and resources. New vehicles should be purchased to boost patrols and help in manning the airport.
Establishing Panel of Experts
A panel of external experts should be appointed to look into exactly what transpires. The duty of the panel should be to collect information to determine exactly what has happened, the lessons learned, and how to avoid a similar disruption in the future. Planning, recovery, and execution of duties are some of the key areas that the panel should seek to explore to provide a comprehensive report that should serve as a guiding document for the airport management and involved local authorities.
Support to Stranded Passengers
Support accorded to stranded passengers should be increased to ensure that they are directed to more secure places. Most passengers get lost in case of a crisis in the airport. Providing more support goes a long way in ensuring that their safety is guaranteed and that they are protected from controllable injuries or health complications. The airport management should also ensure that measures are put in place to reduce the number of individuals arriving for flights that delay to depart or do not depart at all.
Reliable Communication Mode
The airport should devise means of providing reliable information. A well-understood mode of communication is critical in an airport environment, which is characterised by fast-changing circumstances. Giving misguided information to passengers endangers their lives, as well as safety of their belongings. Passengers should be urged to stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercises, especially those who suffer from breathing-related conditions (Avmet, 2014). They should also be urged to seek medical advice if they develop symptoms like coughing, wheezing, chest pain, or shortness of breath.
If the aircraft is already on the ground and its captain realises that a sandstorm is approaching, appropriate measures should be taken. Such measures include turning the aircraft into wind and tying down if the wind is strong. Another measure would be to fit the covers to intakes, tubes, and vents to prevent ingress of dust and sand. It is essential to cover areas that could interfere with flying controls within the aircraft, e.g. condition levers, quadrant, and throttle. Captains should ensure that flight deck is vacuumed to remove dust before any subsequent flight check.