The Airport Authority conducted Table Top and Full-Scale Emergency and Contingency Exercises at the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport on Nov. 14-15.
Key airport employees, heads of government departments along with community stakeholders were selected to take part in the exercise in the event of an emergency at the airport.
The focus of the first session was a Table-Top Meeting, which outlined each person’s role during an emergency while the following day involved a full-scale contingency exercise and drill.
Vivian Miller, deputy general manager of the Airport Authority, said that every three years they are required to carry out such an exercise, and that between Dec. 4-8, an inspection of the airport and all airline carriers will take place by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) representatives who conduct routine inspections throughout the year.
Recently, the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority Airport (BCAA) carried out an assessment and Air Carrier Inspection, and several findings were revealed, addressed and corrections were made, according to Julieann Mills, Airport Security Manager.
Based on the findings in July 2016, Mills said that they were informed that the airport is short-staffed, the measures for drop-offs and pick-ups needed improvements, bushes were found in the perimeter fencing, ID badges needed updating, vehicle passes needed issuing, and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras needed to be installed and so on.
Mills emphasized that unscreened personnel should not be allowed in restricted areas, and on the airside, all areas must be secured.
Meanwhile, Sean Forbes, security superintendent of the Airport Authority came to Abaco to assist with the training, and to ensure that everyone understands what is expected of them in an emergency. He explained that a Crisis Management team needs to be formed and be comprised of: the airport manager, senior officers of various government departments, airline representative and Crash & Fire personnel.
During her remarks, National Inspector Marsha Chriswell outlined the role of the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority Aviation’s Security and Facilitation Oversight Department. She said BCAA implements security measures and examine them to ensure that they are compliant with all regulations. Chriswell informed them that the National Civil Aviation program comes from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) annexes, which is considered the Bible or the law for them. She added that they also do audits, inspections, tests, surveys and investigations and work closely with TSA.
Meanwhile, Miller talked about the transition of the administration of the Leonard M. Thomson International Airport to the Airport Authority, which she referred to as the “keepers of the safety and security of the airport.”
The Airport Authority is responsible for 28 airports, she informed, and if the airport is not up to international standards that’s where fines come in. Again, she emphasized that their job is the safety and security of all passengers and airport personnel.
Additionally, the Leonard M. Thompson Airport is classified as a Tier 1 airport because it has international flights. Miller disclosed that all bags are 100 percent screened meaning they are X-rayed and physically checked. They have to meet the requirements in order to pass the audits.
She said they have opened up a CCTV room as well as an ID room where IDs are processed and vetted before issued. They must be vigilant in vetting and issuing IDs because they cannot have anyone posing a threat or becoming a risk to others at the airport.
“The reality is once you have a problem with security at any airport then it becomes a problem for the entire Bahamas,” Miller said.
Allison Curry, CCTV and ID Room Supervisor, facilitates the creation of ID badges. After listing the requirements for obtaining ID badges, she said it takes 24 hours for them to be processed because they are made in Nassau. If an ID is lost, there is a $60 replacement fee, and a report must be made of the lost ID to the security management team and police station.
She warned airport personnel to never give anyone their ID or pin. IDs are renewed every year on the person’s birth month.
Turning the meeting back over to Miller, she cautioned that they must all ingrain in their minds the safety aspect and security ramifications of airport because what would be the point of having an airport without airlines.
“The Airport Authority is adamant about security,” Miller reiterated. “The airport will not function if safety and security are not in place.”
She was pleased to announce that cameras are fully operational on the airside, and that they have been very successful over the past four years. In fact, the airport has passed every audit, and they have not received any fines, she added.
Forbes tuned in saying that the transition of the airport has gone smoothly over the past year. However, a higher level of security is coming for restricted areas moving forward. He said that security personnel have the responsibility of building relationships and knowing who is who to determine when something goes amiss. Essentially, everyone at the airport is supposed to be a part of the security team, Forbes said.
Mills soon shifted the discussion to access control noting that there are four points of access at the airport. Golf 1 access point is where non-passenger screening (NPS) takes place. Non-passengers are people with no tickets like ticket agents, employers, etc. In order to access the airside (Golf 4), everyone must be screened. Golf 3 refers to the Fire Station entrance. Golf 2, which is the doorway next to the baggage claim area is non-operational.
She gave a detailed explanation of how entry to the Security Restricted Area (SRA) is made from Bahamas Customs and Immigration as well as Cherokee Air Limited/Cherokee Aviation, Inter Island Charters and Zig Zag Airways.
In the second session of the meeting, Forbes split the participants into two teams to go through the procedure of a bomb threat at the airport. Stephen Gordon, Quality Control Officer, was also there on behalf of the Airport Authority.
The goal of the bomb threat exercise was to determine the role of every department.
“Every department should have a procedure in the place in the case of a bomb threat,” Forbes informed them.
Additionally, they must account for everyone and know the evacuation route. Research has proven that parking lots are the worst places to evacuate to, Forbes said. The Crisis Management Team must contact the Island Administrator who will contact the media.
“Do not use a cell phone because it can trigger the bomb. Do not communicate by handheld radio either; you need a runner who can carry information back and forth,” he directed. “It’s important for a number of people to know what’s going on. Training is important so you know what should and shouldn’t be happening in an emergency.”
The following day a full-scale bomb threat exercise took place. Everyone was evacuated from the terminal and accounted for by Miller. Senior Family Island Administrator Maxine Duncombe was on the scene and awaited the police report on the matter before sharing details with reporters.
Overall, Miller was pleased with the evacuation time and everyone’s involvement. Once the all-clear was given, all airport personnel and passengers were allowed to re-enter the terminal