Improving Airport Emergency Management: What Airport Executives Need to Know

Emergency incidents, including active shooters, power outages, airline reservation system failures, terrorist attacks, and other incidents leading to mass evacuations – due to real or perceived threats – are becoming more common in airports around the world. After-action reviews have identified the need to look beyond the concept of strict regulatory compliance and examine lessons learned to understand the tactical response and recovery needs in terms of procedures, personnel, and resources.

Over the past few months, Ross & Baruzzini has worked closely with Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) stakeholders and key city and county executives to assess the airport’s response to an active shooter event that took place on January 6, 2017. Information gathered during the analysis of the event is informative and applies broadly to other public venue emergencies. In the FLL incident, the unprecedented self-evacuation of people into secure areas led to the complete closure of FLL, passenger delays, traffic control issues, and personal property claim issues. While each incident is unique, a comparison of the FLL findings with other incidents in the United States indicates similar potential emergency preparedness gaps. Closing those gaps is essential for airports to facilitate safe and secure recovery and effective return-to-service. While historically many of these responsibilities have fallen on airlines, today airport customers expect the airport operator to take a leadership role in getting airport disruptions back to normal operations.

Emergency Planning

Advanced planning for specific threats, hazards, and functions.

In addition to FAA requirements for emergency planning, additional emergency preparedness and planning guidance are applicable to airports in support of effective response and recovery. Specific guidelines include the National Response Framework, the National Incident Management System, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Comprehensive Preparedness Guides, as well as the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. These resources provide vital information to support effective planning which is synchronized with other external local, state, and federal stakeholders. As an example, a Concept of Operations for command and control which is consistent with Incident Command System (ICS) principles assists in resource requests and tactical receipt of resources from external agencies including mutual aid and local, state, and federal resources. In addition, using staging areas as defined in the ICS facilitates effective and efficient use of resources to support response and recovery efforts. Staging areas also provide a single point of reporting for responders to receive assignments and provide security to maintain control of personnel reporting to potentially dangerous areas.

Consideration should also be given to crisis/risk communication planning. Such planning should provide linkage to the local emergency management agency so that all responding agencies understand by whom messages will be released at the jurisdictional level, clarify the approval process for messages per ICS, and reinforce jurisdictional responsibilities for coordinating message development and releasing public information.  Radio frequencies and cell phones for first responders can get overwhelmed and the airport needs to make contingency plans to address this situation.  Other planning considerations include:

  • Family Assistance and Customer Care Plan – The traditional Family Assistance Plan for an aircraft emergency should be expanded to an airport-wide Customer Care Plan which can be used to codify procedures to 1) Assist persons with disabilities/special needs; 2) Provide language translation; 3) Reunify families; 4) Provide resource support for transportation, food, water, medical needs, shelter, and other relief supplies; 5) Support persons on delayed aircraft; 6) Identify safe havens, and 7) Collect/manage personal belongings and personal item retrieval.
  • Emergency Traffic Plan – Such a plan supports ground transportation and provides traffic control during times of duress and should include provisions for emergency access credentials to allow airport access for key personnel.
  • Continuity of Operations Plan – Such a plan supports 1) Resilience provisions that identify critical operational functions and supporting infrastructure with procedures to ensure that they are not affected by relevant disruptions, for example through redundancy and spare capacity; 2) Recovery provisions that allow restoration of critical operational functions that fail under duress; and 3) Contingency provisions that establish capabilities via backup sites addressing landside, terminal, and airside operations to the extent practical.


Develop relationships with emergency response agencies before an event occurs to facilitate expedited response and recovery.

Equally important to effective emergency planning is coordination with stakeholders regarding roles, responsibilities, and procedures during specific types of emergencies. Most local jurisdictions have emergency plans which define specific roles and assign responsibilities to specific agencies. Generally, jurisdictional plans allow for coordination among various local agencies and non-governmental agencies to support specific functions, often called Emergency Support Functions (ESFs). As an example, ESF-6, Mass Care, may be led by the local public health department with support from organizations such as the American Red Cross.  During an airport emergency where large numbers of people may be delayed for a significant period of time, pre-planned coordination with ESF-6 services can be very valuable in supporting temporary mass shelter, health care, food and water supply, and other human services.

At the jurisdictional (city/county) level, coordination with the local emergency management is vital to support resourcing and logistics for specialized goods or services and/or for providing large-scale resource support.  Multi-agency coordination through policies, planning, training, and exercising support the following goals:

  • Ensure that stakeholder response agencies coordinate incident action plan to prevent duplication of effort;
  • Ensure adequate and accurate resource estimation to support resource requests;
  • Ensure stakeholders concur with tactical recommendations; and
  • Ensure stakeholders understand their roles, responsibilities, and limitations.

Among all stakeholder response agencies, it is important to establish a consistent understanding among agency leaders regarding when Unified Command is necessary and how it is to occur.

Training and Exercises

Develop competencies among assigned staff members to support emergency response and recovery.

Training and exercises provide an opportunity to build competencies and relationships among assigned emergency responders and airport stakeholders. As described in the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), Multi-Year Training and Exercise Plans are recommended for airports to identify internal and external training, tabletop exercises, drills, and functional and full-scale exercises to develop competencies and relationships among personnel and agencies with assigned responsibilities under emergency response plans.  While full-scale exercises are valuable periodically, focused operational drills also provide value in allowing tactical response personnel to familiarize themselves with the airport, equipment, and teammates. Among management personnel from stakeholder agencies and organizations, multi-agency tabletop and functional exercises are recommended to practice multi-agency coordination via unified command.

Specialized emergency planning, multi-agency coordination, and training and exercises allow airport management to build competencies among staff members and external stakeholders to minimize the impact of emergencies in public spaces.  In an environment where threats and hazards evolve quickly, these steps are necessary to protect the traveling public and to maintain airport operations and economic viability.

Why Ross & Baruzzini for Emergency Planning and Business Continuity Services

For more than 35 years, Ross & Baruzzini has delivered specialized expertise in the field of airport operations, information technology, and electronic systems. Our team has direct professional experience in emergency preparedness and response, law enforcement, life/health/safety, physical and electronic security systems, risk assessment, and training and exercise services specific to the aviation sector. Our emergency planning specialists assist airports and aviation stakeholders to develop emergency response programs that define how to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies. The breadth and experience of our team allow us to augment emergency planning with appropriate training and exercises and to integrate preparedness activities with business continuity and other planning needs.

About the Authors

Michael Steinle, MBA

Michael has over 27 years of experience in project management, government affairs, emergency response, and environmental, health and safety stewardship. Michael served as a Technical Lead and Content Manager for the FLL Airport Active Shooter After-Action Report and has led many large-scale federal, state, and local emergency preparedness, resiliency, and public health planning projects.  In 2010, Michael served as the Planning Coordinator on the FEMA Region VII New Madrid Seismic Zone Catastrophic Earthquake Plan and received a commendation from the FEMA Region VII Administrator. Prior to joining Ross & Baruzzini, Michael also implemented environmental, health and safety, and emergency preparedness programs at Kansas City International Airport.

Ross & Baruzzini Gives Back

The one thing I love most about Ross & Baruzzini is the spirit of volunteering and dedication to civic involvement that comes from our employees. 2017 was a year where the Ross & Baruzzini team shined as they opened their hearts to those that needed it the most.

Fundraising, Community Involvement, and Charitable Giving

April 1, 2017, was a day that brought tears to my eyes as I witnessed our firm wrap its arms around an employee in need through a company-sponsored Poker Tournament Fundraiser.  Several employees volunteered their time and effort and raised over $10,000 through a combination of contributions from employees, local businesses, teaming partners and so many more. We did whatever we could to help a teammate in need in true Ross & Baruzzini fashion – and we had a blast doing it!

Our civic involvement journey continued on a hot June afternoon, as we participated in the Annual Civil Giving Whiffle Ball Tournament.  Ross & Baruzzini did not take home the trophy but we had a great time supporting Gene Slay’s Boys and Girls Club of St. Louis through our donation.

In July, we acquired CAGE, Inc. CAGE brought to the Ross & Baruzzini family CAGE Cares; a non-profit foundation dedicated to supporting the disadvantaged students of the Irving, Texas Independent School District. CAGE Cares raised over $13,954 through the donation of blankets for the homeless and uniforms for the School District, participation in the annual Golf Tournament, and employee payroll contributions.

August came and brought the annual McCarthy Softball Tournament, a Ross & Baruzzini favorite. After 8 hours of playing softball in 90+ degrees temperatures, The Killer B’s took home the gold and donated the $3,000 winnings to Circus Flora.

In September, the hurricanes of Houston and Miami hit. We held a jeans week and asked our employees to donate whatever they could to help out hurricane victims. Ross & Baruzzini matched employee contributions and the Ross & Baruzzini family raised $3,500 and donated the proceeds to Feeding South Florida and Houston Flood Relief Fund.

October is focused on our Annual United Way campaign. This year we exceeded our goal of $21,000.

Our Indianapolis office hosted a Chili Cook-Off in November and asked employees to donate canned food items for the local Indianapolis-based charity Second Helpings.  

At the same time, the St. Louis office hosted the annual Poverty Lunch where employees enjoyed a simple lunch and donated what they would have spent on going out to lunch. We raised over $350 dollars for Brendan’s Backpacks and Sunshine Ministries.

Ross & Baruzzini is committed to taking our volunteering and civic involvement efforts to the next level in 2018. We recently surveyed our employees to see what charitable organizations are near and dear to their hearts and also asked where they would like Ross & Baruzzini to focus charitable efforts in 2018. Stay tuned to see what 2018 brings!

We hope Ross & Baruzzini’s commitment to community involvement and charitable giving will serve as an example for our employees, clients, and partnering companies to make a greater commitment to their communities and change lives.

Listed below are organizations our employees have focused personal charitable efforts on in 2017.  I am so incredibly proud of our team and the culture that is Ross & Baruzzini.  Cheers to the New Year!

Learn more about Ross & Baruzzini’s Civic Involvement and charitable efforts here:

About the Contributor

Trista Stahr, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Director of Human Resources. Trista has over 10 years’ experience in the field of Human Resources and is passionate about aligning business goals with career goals for the people of Ross & Baruzzini, improving employee relations, and encouraging a healthy work environment. Trista has previously served on the Webster University Alumni Board, YWCA Leader Lunch Steering Committee, Junior Achievement, Lewis and Clark SHRM, and Missouri State Council of SHRM. She holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources and SHRM-Senior Professional certifications and received a Masters in Human Resources Management and Masters in Business Administration from Webster University.

Security Programs Win Big in the New Tax Plan

The role of a security consultant is as diverse as the risks and challenges organizations face. In my experience, the “physical security team” is often the last group to secure funding when financials are good and the first to lose it when they go bad. It is for this reason that I was excited to learn that the newly approved tax plan has the potential to significantly benefit security programs. If you’ll give me just a few more minutes of your time, and continue reading, I’ll explain further.

In my career, the closest I ever came to an “organizational blank check” for security was my time with the AIG Emergency Readiness Program and as the firm’s Offshore Security Compliance Group Manager.  Money for equipment, consultants, training, and travel seemed to be without limit and the security organization’s capabilities rivaled those of many government organizations.  I still have the commemorative coin I received from management the year the firm topped the Security 500®.  Anyone who has been alive for the last decade knows how abruptly the financial tides at AIG turned, and with that, how the investment in security programs waned. 

Security, like many other parts of the economy, seemed slow to recover. This has not been helped by the levels of complacency and defeatism that have developed over the past few years. The resulting settlement on nothing needs to be done or nothing can be done often reaches the highest levels of leadership. This state has been further compounded, in recent years, with changes in the threat landscape, increased media coverage of information system breaches, and greater dependence on technology in our lives and businesses, making it no surprise that the emergence of funding for cybersecurity capabilities within organizations has become an undeniable force. 

Unfortunately for many “physical” security organizations, the funding for improvements in security technologies, even those tasked with securing critical information assets, seems to be lagging in comparison to investments in network analytics, Network Operations Centers, and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software. Acquiring funds to maintain or replace a security program may not be an arduous effort following the signing into law of H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, P.L. 115-97. This new law includes provisions that redefine “Qualified Real Property” (Subsection (f) of Section 179 of the IRS Tax Code) to include fire protection and alarm systems and security systems, which may have a positive impact on this trend. According to an article by the Security Industry Association (SIA), which advocated strongly for the new provisions, the change “empowers businesses to deduct the full purchase price of qualifying equipment and/or software purchased or financed during the tax year.” Their article goes on to indicate that “under former IRS regulations, security and fire protection systems were excluded from Section 179 deductions, forcing customers to depreciate these costs over the 39-year depreciation life for buildings.”

I need to take a moment and let everyone know that I am not a tax professional or accountant. That said, the true benefits of this change should be reviewed with your finance team and/or tax professionals.  At first glance, it appears that this change will have a very positive impact on the Return on Security Investment (ROSI) calculations.  Many of you must provide ROSI information and justifications when submitting for funding of new projects. This change should, in an ideal world, provide for a greater chance of project approval.  With that in mind, 2018 may be a great time to relook at your deployed security systems for improvement opportunities. If your security department budget has already been approved for the year, you haven’t missed the boat.  I would suggest, in this case, that 2018 may be an ideal time to conduct gap analyses or broader threat and risk assessments to determine areas and assets that may not have been afforded sufficient protections in the past due to budgetary restrictions. This will allow for the development of a very strong business case for your security department budget for the 2019 fiscal year.   

About the Contributor

Matthew R. Dimmick, PSP, CPD. With over 24 years of experience, Matthew is an accomplished Security Professional with extensive domestic and international experience in the development, design, implementation, and management of programs involving all aspects of physical security, security operations, compliance, VIP protection, emergency planning, and crisis and project management. He currently works as a Principal Consultant for Ross & Baruzzini providing security and resilience consulting services within the Command, Control, and Communications team.  His career began in the US Army as a Military Police Officer, Dog Handler, and WMD (CBRN) Counter-Terrorism specialist as a founding member of the NJ National Guard’s 21st Civil Support Team (light).