One year after a man went on a shooting rampage in Florida's
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport (FLL), killing five and injuring six, a push
for laws requiring more emergency training of airport employees is gaining
Last month, the Broward County Commission, which runs the
Fort Lauderdale airport, instructed the county's legal team to draft an
ordinance that would require all airport workers to receive emergency training
even if they aren't first responders.
Fort Lauderdale isn't alone. Also in December, the city of
Los Angeles required all contractors at Los Angeles Airport (LAX) to provide
employees 16 hours of paid emergency-response training annually. The ordinance
applies to forward-facing workers, such as baggage handlers, porters,
wheelchair attendants, janitors and door security guards. With its passage, LAX
became the first airport in the country to require paid emergency training on
that scale, according to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
On another front, a proposal making its way through the Massachusetts
legislature, which overseas Boston Logan Airport, calls for all service-facing
airport workers to receive 40 hours of paid emergency training.
The proposals are the early successes of a lobbying push by
the SEIU on behalf of rank-and-file airport workers, many of whom work not for
the airports themselves but for airport contractors.
One worker behind the SEIU effort is Melifaite Cine, who was
cleaning the inside of a Delta aircraft parked at FLL on Jan. 6, 2017, when the
shooting took place near the baggage claim in Terminal 2.
Cine didn't hear the gunshots, but when he emerged from the
plane he saw panic.
"I saw people screaming, running, asking, 'Where are we
going?'" he recalled in a recent interview. "I didn't have an answer.
We don't have a designated place to go."
Twelve months later, Cine said, little has changed.
"If something like that were to happen again, I still
don't know where to lead the people," he said.
The proposal that SEIU is backing around the country, as
well as the new law in Los Angeles, would address such concerns. The mandatory
training won't be geared toward first response, said Jon McDuffie, an emergency
management consultant and a former Los Angeles firefighter who is consulting
with SEIU. That's the territory of public safety workers and law enforcement.
But the training should give airport staffers the tools to
avoid sowing additional panic as an incident is occurring and to handle an
incident's aftermath, when chaos reigns and airport customers don't know what
At Fort Lauderdale last year, for example, many people ended
up stuck inside airplanes on the tarmac for several hours, only to eventually
disembark to find disorder within the terminal.
"What many people confuse is the actual incident with
the event," McDuffie said. "At Fort Lauderdale, you had the incident,
which lasted a few minutes, but the event lasted 12 hours."
The specifics of the training at LAX, he said, are still
being determined, but a pilot program teaches workers such things as the
airport's evacuation routes, how to perform basic first aid, how to direct and
assist people as they go through the airport and how to help people shelter in
"What it gives these employees are the skills to do the
right thing and to do what the customers, the passengers, have expectations
they'll do, " McDuffie said.
The training isn't just geared toward shootings, he said. It
would cover all manner of emergencies, including power outages like the one
that caused chaos at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport last month as well as
disruptive political demonstrations, weather emergencies, problems on the
tarmac or runway and traffic incidents that snarl roadways to the airport.
Most airport workers, McDuffie acknowledged, do already
receive some sort of limited training. Cine, for example, said that after being
hired, he underwent 90 minutes of safety training that dealt with matters such
as self-protection, cleaning chemical spills and protecting secured doorways.
Adrian Madaro, the Boston-based legislator who sponsored the
40-hour training bill in Massachusetts, said he's received similar reports from
workers at Logan Airport.
"Those folks do not feel adequately trained," he
said. "It's about safety for workers, but also about safety for
The bill passed out of the House Transportation Committee in
September, and Madaro is bullish about its prospects for passage before the end
of the legislative session on July 31, saying it has encountered little
"It's sound policy, and I do believe that what LAX is
doing will be consistent at airports across the country," he said. "I
want to make Logan one of the next ones."