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 momentum.

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 to do.

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 place.

"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 passengers."

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 opposition.

"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."


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