Helipad Fire Fighting System at King’s College Hospital

Advice on the latest Deck Integrated Fire Fighting System (DIFFS) and certification of the new helipad for King’s College Hospital London  – the first helipad on UK mainland equipped with a DIFFS.

King’s College Hospital serves a trauma population of 4.5 million people across south east London and Kent. The previous helipad was located remotely at surface level, making it necessary for an ambulance to transfer patients the rest of the way by road. Thanks to a multi-million pound donation from the County Air Ambulance HELP Appeal, the charity dedicated to funding the construction of hospital helipads, the new helipad, built on top of the hospital, became possible.


It is a mandated requirement for an elevated heliport in the UK to have a dedicated heliport firefighting service. This used to be achieved by use of a fixed foam monitor system, however this system requires trained firefighters to manually extinguish the fire. Employing firefighters would have cost the Trust £300,000 each year. The hospital therefore looked to install the DIFFS to minimise the level of operating input and cost. As this was the first installation of the DIFF System in the UK mainland, the Trust needed an expert to provide technical input to receive an approval from the local firefighting services.


CAAi was appointed to provide technical advice on the latest DIFF System which permits a Responsible Person to “hit the button” to trigger the system. CAAi was asked to explain to the local firefighting services the suitability of the new system for the project and its functionality as in the event of a crash situation the local firefighting services needed to know how the DIFFS model works so they could provide backup. The experts also advised on any potential non-compliances to ensure compliance with the regulations. For the DIFFS to pass the inspection it must comply with the requirements set out in the UK CAA CAP 1264 including the application rate of 5.5 l/ m2/min for the Level B primary foam media and a discharge duration of a minimum of 5-minutes. The principal agent must be delivered to the whole landing area within 15 seconds of activation.


In September 2016 the new King’s College Hospital helipad was certified to the UK CAA CAP 1264 standards by the UK aviation regulator, providing significant time saving on a transport of a critically ill patients. The helipad was equipped with a deck integrated firefighting system providing not only financial savings to the Trust, but also an automated firefighting system which suppresses the fire rapidly giving the opportunity for the occupants of crashed helicopter to escape to safety.

The DIFF system has been accepted by ICAO for offshore and onshore heliports, and Annex 14 Volume II is in the process of being updated and the Heliport Manual for onshore helipads is anticipated to be published around July 2020.

Key Achievements
  • UK CAA CAP 1264 Certification received
  • Time saving on a transport of critical ill patients
  • Rapid suppression of fire
  • Long term financial saving
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