National Academies Press: OpenBook

Emergency Working Groups at Airports (2019)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Emergency Working Groups at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25572.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Emergency Working Groups at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25572.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Emergency Working Groups at Airports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25572.
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3 Air travel is one of the safest modes of travel, and airports are among the safest public spaces in the United States. However, air travel incidents do occur, and they can result in injuries and deaths. When this happens, victims and their families and friends need immediate assistance as well as assistance in the weeks following the incident. Whether deaths or injuries result from an incident, the passenger and family assistance response is the same. However, who leads the assistance response team depends on whether the cause of the incident is aircraft related or if the incident is related to an incident in the terminal, such as an active shooter, a bomb threat, or other hazard. If the incident is an aircraft accident, then the legislated airline must take the lead and family assistance functions may take place at both the airport of departure and the airport of arrival. If the incident occurs in a terminal or elsewhere on airport property, the airport, or in some cases the operator of an individual terminal, is responsible. Regardless of the type of incident, the goal of airports, airlines, and other stakeholders in the airport community is to achieve safety, security, compassion, customer service, regula- tory compliance, and reputation. Achievement of each of these goals is enabled or enhanced through the collaboration among the members of the airport community, particularly between an airport and its airlines. Furthermore, achieving these goals can contribute to resiliency and to the protection of critical infrastructure and key resources (FEMA-EMI, n.d.). Airports—especially in the past two decades—have generally sought to promote and increase such collaboration. One metric of this trend has been the increase in the number of U.S. air- ports with full-time emergency managers, from fewer than 10 in 2007 to more than 120 today. Collaboration and increased professionalism in airport emergency management have gone hand in hand. Important Milestones in Collaboration The following events have played a major role in the trend toward greater collaboration, particularly in the case of incidents that require family assistance responses: • Passenger family assistance legislation – Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996. This act mandates the victim support tasks (VSTs) that an airline must provide to passengers and their families when there is an aircraft accident. – Foreign Air Carrier Family Support Act of 1997. This act extends similar requirements of the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act to foreign airlines operating in the United States. C H A P T E R 1 Introduction

4 Emergency Working Groups at Airports – Air 21, enacted in 2000 (Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century). – Vision 100, enacted in 2018 (Century of Aviation Re-Authorization Act). [For a discussion of how these four laws and their implementing regulations apply to victim and family assistance in the case of aviation disasters, see ACRP Research Report 171 (Warner-Bean et al., 2017).] • September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks. The events of 9/11 caused a massive change in the national approach to aviation security. Many airports, including Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO), initiated intensive collabora- tive efforts with their state and federal agency partners and their airlines. • National Incident Management System (NIMS). NIMS was promulgated to be the national standard for incident management in a Presidential Homeland Security Directive in 2004. A major goal of standardizing the policies and procedures for incident management was to promote collaboration among multiple responding parties and stakeholders. • Federal Family Assistance Plan for Aviation Disasters (2008). NTSB published this plan to guide airlines and airports on how to carry out the requirements of federal passenger family assistance legislation. • FAA Advisory Circular 150/5200-31C Airport Emergency Plan (issued 2009, effective 2012). Advisory Circular 31C states the goals, procedures, and minimum requirements that every certificate-holding U.S. airport must meet for emergency planning. Advisory Circular 31C provides limited but important guidance on family assistance considerations for airports, acknowledging that there may be limited air carrier support available in the initial 12 hours post-event and that it can be beneficial for airport operators to consider including provisions for basic family support in the airport emergency plan (AEP) (Warner-Bean et al., 2017, p. 10). “These enhancements will allow for a reduction of stress and trauma of family members and allow for a smoother transition once the affected air carrier arrives with the necessary personnel and logistical resources” (FAA, 2009). • American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) Emergency Management Conferences (held annually since 2013). These conferences are the major venue for the face-to-face transfer of lessons learned by airport emergency managers. Victim and family assistance has been the focus of these conferences. • The crash of Asiana Flight 214 at SFO in July 2013. The crash revealed gaps and issues with victim and family assistance services, especially in the case in which a large number of passen- gers were involved and the airline had a limited number of employees on-site at the airport. SFO faced challenges regarding patient tracking, confidentiality, media relations, the role of an airline alliance, and the demands on the airport for space, security, and trained personnel. SFO built on its post-9/11 collaborative mechanisms to work with several of its airlines to create the first airport emergency working group. • Active shooter incidents at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in November 2013 and at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL) in January 2017. These two incidents gave strong impetus to the idea that emergency working groups are effective when victim and family assistance services are needed while emphasizing the similarities and differences between aircraft accidents and other types of incidents that result in deaths or injuries. • NTSB family assistance workshops. To supplement its residential courses in family assistance that were designed for airlines and federal agencies, NTSB began to offer 1- and 2-day on-site family assistance workshops at airports. The workshops strongly emphasize the importance of collaboration among airlines, airports, and other stakeholders. The agendas for three recent NTSB family assistance workshops are available in Appendix C of this synthesis. Examina- tion of the agenda for the workshop at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) shows how the agenda can be customized at the request of a host airport: AUS wanted a discussion of emergency working groups in addition to the general discussion of collaboration.

Introduction 5 • Publication of ACRP Research Report 171: Establishing a Coordinated Local Family Assistance Program for Airports (Warner-Bean et al., 2017). ACRP Research Report 171 details how an airport and its collaborating stakeholders can accomplish family assistance to ensure victim and family services are provided during the initial period before the affected airline’s care team arrives on-site. Among the six case studies in ACRP Research Report 171, two of the studies—the SFO and the FLL ones—describe the emergency working groups established at these airports in response to the lessons learned when victim and family assistance issues arose after the Asiana 214 crash and the active shooter incident, respectively. Frameworks for Collaboration The following approaches are just a few of the ways an airport, its airlines, and other stake- holders can achieve and sustain collaboration: • An airport–airlines collaborative arrangement—or an EWG—that provides the plans and the training and that maintains mutual aid in supporting VSTs required of airlines during emer- gencies at airports. Stakeholders create EWGs to enhance their capability to support victim and family assistance in the case of an aircraft accident. Beyond this original motivation, some EWGs may have expanded scope to deal with any hazard that results in a need for victim and family assistance. “EWG” is the generic title for these arrangements; the actual group name may differ at a specific airport. • Airport employs existing culture of collaboration among stakeholders at airport. • Airport manages emergency response and family assistance one-on-one (1:1) with airlines. • Airport encourages airlines to make airline-to-airline mutual aid arrangements. • Airport manages whole response using its own departments and perhaps in collaboration with community mutual aid partners. • Airport manages whole response using a contractor for some or all victim and family assistance functions. These approaches may be used separately, in various combinations, or sequentially. Purpose and Audience of this Synthesis Initially, this study sought to look at the full range of incidents that might generate a need for victim or family assistance at an airport: an aircraft accident; any type of emergency, such as a natural disaster, an active shooter, or terrorist attack (“all-hazards approach”); a flight diver- sion; and irregular operations (IROPS) that most often result from severe weather. As will be discussed in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3, the interviewed airports reported that diversions hardly ever create a special need for family assistance and that any passenger or family assistance issues associated with IROPS were already covered by an airport’s IROPS plan. The objective of this study is to locate, compile, and synthesize information on existing practice regarding EWGs. The study also encompasses other models of collaboration and it examines how the collaboration models can be adapted and used by commercial passenger airports of all sizes. The audience for this synthesis is the entire airport community but specifically airports, airlines, agencies, service providers, and airports’ mutual aid partners.

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Airports—especially in the past two decades—have generally sought to promote and increase collaboration among the members of the airport community, particularly between an airport and its airlines. One metric of this trend has been the increase in the number of U.S. airports with full-time emergency managers, from fewer than 10 in 2007 to more than 120 today. Collaboration and increased professionalism in airport emergency management have gone hand in hand.

No matter whether the incident is aircraft-related or an incident in the terminal—such as an active shooter, a bomb threat, or other hazard—the goals of airports, airlines, and others in the airport community are to achieve safety, security, compassion, customer service, regulatory compliance, and reputation. Achieving these goals can contribute to resiliency and to the protection of critical infrastructure and key resources.

Although air travel is one of the safest modes of travel, and airports are among the safest public spaces in the United States, air-travel incidents do occur. ACRP Synthesis 99: Emergency Working Groups at Airports documents these working groups and how they assist victims and their families and friends in the weeks following an incident.

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