LOS ANGELES — While the holiday travel season means stepped up security at Los Angeles International Airport, safety is always paramount in the minds of the airport’s police officers and other staffers charged with protecting guests at the second-busiest airport in the U.S.
Training for potential emergencies is a constant for employees across Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), with both monthly exercises that started in the wake of the fatal shooting of an on-duty Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent in 2013, and annual tabletop exercises, including one earlier this month that tested the communications channels and actions that would be taken in event of an emergency at LAX.
At a Board of Airport Commissioners meeting earlier this month, airport Deputy Executive Director of Security and Public Safety Patrick Gannon lauded the efforts of Los Angeles Fire Department Assistant Chief Armando Hogan, who has overseen more than 150 “trunk top” training sessions in the four years since TSA officer Gerado Hernandez was gunned down on Nov. 1, 2013.
“Stressing the importance of training with his trademark phrase, ‘We’re only as good as we train,’ Chief Hogan has turned an idea into an airport best practice,” Gannon told the board. “Using scenarios from our Airport Emergency Response Plan, Chief Hogan has helped ensure that we are ready and able to respond to any emergency here at the airport.”
Hogan works with Airport Police, Airport Operations and LAWA Emergency Management to bring together representatives of local, federal and public safety agencies as well as airport stakeholders, including airlines and ground service providers.
The monthly one-hour sessions, called “trunk tops” because they are sometimes run from the top of the trunks of police cars and other emergency vehicles, allow the personnel who would respond to an incident, a command post and the Department Operations Center to test out their preparedness for a variety of emergencies that could potentially occur at LAX.
The Aviation Security Contingency Plan tabletop exercise, held Nov. 8, is an annual, longer-form event that sees representatives from a number of airport divisions as well as federal agencies, airlines, ground service providers, the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Fire Department discuss how they would respond and support each other during a rapidly escalating emergency at the airport.
Led by the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, more than two dozen front-line participants were supported by staff members while over 200 observers watched and took notes during the three-hour exercise.
“Four years after the tragic shooting in Terminal 3, we continue to apply the lessons learned that day and in the days that followed to ensure the safety of airport guests,” Gannon said. “We are constantly training our outstanding Airport Police force, under the command of Chief Dave Maggard, as well as other airport staff to be vigilant, and ask the public to work with us by reporting any suspicious activities to the nearest officer or airport employee who can get assistance.”
With the 11-day Thanksgiving travel season underway, Los Angeles Airport Police will be on enhanced deployment for high visibility and traffic management. Additional pedestrian safety measures will also be in place.
Nearly 2.4 million passengers are expected at LAX during the 11-day period, with more than 1 million vehicles traveling through the Central Terminal Area during that time.