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Int'l Airport Evacuation Question  
User currently offlineB2468 From United States of America, joined Sep 2009, 90 posts, RR: 0
Posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 3277 times:

Hi Everyone!

I have a question for you folks that has been nagging me for over a year, since I was queuing up in the International Arrivals Hall at Terminal One at JFK. I didn't find a similar question asked in the forum archives, but I apologize in advance if this is a duplicate question.

Let's say you are in the International Arrivals Hall at a major international airport, such as JFK, and you have a couple hundred (thousand, maybe?) people queued up to go through immigration and passport/visa check. What would happen if there were suddenly an emergency that required an immediate evacuation of the building (e.g. fire, explosion, etc)? What happens to the people who have not yet cleared immigration?

Do airports and immigration authorities have procedures in place for this sort of emergency? I imagine it would be very difficult to marshal such large numbers of people, where many may not speak the local language or another major language used in airports (like English) without losing track of some of them.

Has anything like this ever happened before?

Thanks in advance for any information!


Dash-8/ERJ/306/310/319/320/332/333/343/346/388/72S/731/732/733/734/73G/738/741/744/74E/752/762/763/77E/77W/DC9/D1C/M82
11 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 24817 posts, RR: 22
Reply 1, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3228 times:

Quoting B2468 (Thread starter):
What would happen if there were suddenly an emergency that required an immediate evacuation of the building (e.g. fire, explosion, etc)? What happens to the people who have not yet cleared immigration?

In an emergency, I expect saving lives would take priority over worrying about whether passengers had cleared customs/immigration.

One example I can think of was at DUS in 1996 when a major part of the terminal building caught fire and was largely destroyed, killing 17 persons and injuring 62.
http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/dusseldorf.pdf


http://www.european-hospital.com/topics/article/545.html

[Edited 2009-09-06 09:55:09]

[Edited 2009-09-06 09:58:00]

[Edited 2009-09-06 10:07:10]

User currently offlineB2468 From United States of America, joined Sep 2009, 90 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3181 times:

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 1):
I haven't read it yet, but there may be some references in the document below re how the terminal was evacuated.

That was a very interesting read, thank you. It seems at DUS, the fire was located in an arrivals area, and in fact a number of people who died were in a VIP lounge which did not have adequately protected avenues of escape. Some others were spotters who left the upper levels via elevator, and were killed when the elevator opened into a fire and smoke area.

It was a great example of such an emergency that could prompt a speedy evacuation.

Of course, fire/rescue brigades will focus on getting people to safety and treating anyone injured. I just wonder, as nations are becoming stricter about passport control, and less forgiving of people in country without proper authorization, do the various immigration authorities around the world consider the possibility of such an event in an arrivals hall when designing or renovating those facilities? How closely do immigration authorities work with the airport fire/rescue brigades in developing emergency response plans?

[Edited 2009-09-06 10:19:37]


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User currently offlineManuCH From Switzerland, joined Jun 2005, 3011 posts, RR: 47
Reply 3, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3170 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD MODERATOR

I would imagine that the emergency evacuation plan includes directing people to a safe "rendez-vous" area outside. I doubt anyone would just escape from there by running away... maybe the area is fenced?


Never trust a statistic you didn't fake yourself
User currently offlineB2468 From United States of America, joined Sep 2009, 90 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3148 times:



Quoting ManuCH (Reply 3):
I would imagine that the emergency evacuation plan includes directing people to a safe "rendez-vous" area outside. I doubt anyone would just escape from there by running away... maybe the area is fenced?

Yeah, I am just curious as to what these evacuation plans are like.

I have read from some of the other members of A.net that many European airports have very strict controls on movement of people on and off the airport property. China is the same way.

However, I don't think American airports have the same strictness, especially with people walking out.

In the chaos of an evacuation, unless there were a specific plan in place, I think it might be very reasonable for someone to break away from the group and simply walk out a street exit and off the airport property. How many people would question somebody leaving the airport property, especially in such an emergency?



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User currently offlineManuCH From Switzerland, joined Jun 2005, 3011 posts, RR: 47
Reply 5, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 3010 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
HEAD MODERATOR



Quoting B2468 (Reply 4):
In the chaos of an evacuation, unless there were a specific plan in place, I think it might be very reasonable for someone to break away from the group and simply walk out a street exit and off the airport property.

I doubt an international passenger would just walk off without his personal belongings (if we're talking about the pre-immigration, pre-baggage claim area), unless he was flying with the purpose of becoming an illegal alien in the first place. But then again I might be wrong, who knows what people do in emergencies.

Quoting B2468 (Reply 4):
Yeah, I am just curious as to what these evacuation plans are like.

I'm curious too, although I'm afraid they're not freely accessible to the public. I could probably find out the details for LUG, but the airport is so small that it would be a different story from, say, JFK. But regardless of how small it is, the facility is fenced, and I'm sure passengers would be evacuated airside on the tarmac, where they couldn't go anywhere.



Never trust a statistic you didn't fake yourself
User currently offlineRushed From Australia, joined May 2000, 248 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 2872 times:

I'm guessing that ensuring everyone is safe would be the number one priority.. if a few people here and there missed passport control screening.. big deal.. the authorities would probably just look at the passenger manifests and give them a follow up call or something... when you look at the total population entering a country, the liklihood of such an event occuring, and the potential that on that day, at that time someone of interest to customs/immigration got thru without screening.. id say its a pretty low risk event..


travel blogging enthusiast :)
User currently offlineKalvado From United States of America, joined Feb 2006, 489 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 2751 times:

slightly different situation, but after AF358 crash in Toronto some people missed passport control. The way it was reported, looks like there was no backup plan in that situation.

User currently offlineLAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 24820 posts, RR: 46
Reply 8, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 2725 times:

Terminal evacuations are a rather routine event here in Los Angeles (unattended bags, fire alarms, various threats etc).

There are clear evacuation plans established for people that have yet to clear FIS, and they are kept segregated. Depending on the nature of the emergency the passengers could be relocated to other portions of the facilities, out on the tarmac, onboard aircraft, or even transported away by bus to designated off airport holding facilities.

It would folly just to let uncleared passengers just leave the facilities on the count of a purported 'emergency' which might very well be part of a plan to have people enter the country illegally.



From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
User currently offlineB2468 From United States of America, joined Sep 2009, 90 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 2672 times:



Quoting LAXintl (Reply 8):

In the event of an emergency that might cause panic among the passengers waiting to clear immigration, how would the CBP officers and airport personnel stop anyone from trying to run through the immigration lanes to escape the danger? I'm not talking about a situation with people deliberately trying to break the law, but people in a state of panic who are just looking for any way out possible.

Would it be legal for CBP in the United States to block the immigration lanes to stop anyone from passing through to the cleared (post-immigration) area? Here in China, and to a lesser extent, Korea, it is perfectly acceptable to block exits in an emergency for security purposes (though not on aircraft), regardless of safety (it is kind of disconcerting to be in a building in China or Korea and pass a door marked "EXIT" which is chained shut...very common).

Quoting Kalvado (Reply 7):

That's actually a great extension to my question. However, I think crashes normally occur in an uncontrolled environment (either off the airport property, or in a part of the airport where passenger movement is not controlled or not existent). In an immigration hall, that is a controlled, enclosed environment which poses unique challenges for evacuations in a security restricted area.

I am interested to know, though, what happens in a crash where a surviving passenger's identification papers (e.g. passport, visas, etc) are destroyed in the crash? If passengers follow the rules, and evacuate without their carry-on bags (which is where many keep their passports), how do immigration authorities handle that? I am talking especially about countries where there is full entry and exit immigration (not the USA or Canada where there is no exit immigration check). I am sure immigration authorities have some way of handling this given such circumstances, I'm just curious.

Quoting Rushed (Reply 6):
when you look at the total population entering a country, the liklihood of such an event occuring, and the potential that on that day, at that time someone of interest to customs/immigration got thru without screening.. id say its a pretty low risk event..

I'd be concerned about someone who might deliberately cause such a panic in an immigration hall for nefarious purposes.

Thanks so much for your replies so far!



Dash-8/ERJ/306/310/319/320/332/333/343/346/388/72S/731/732/733/734/73G/738/741/744/74E/752/762/763/77E/77W/DC9/D1C/M82
User currently offlineLAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 24820 posts, RR: 46
Reply 10, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 2644 times:



Quoting B2468 (Reply 9):
In the event of an emergency that might cause panic among the passengers waiting to clear immigration, how would the CBP officers and airport personnel stop anyone from trying to run through the immigration lanes to escape the danger?

Simply put the facility goes into a lockdown, and people do not have unimpeded path to the outside.

Lets use TBIT FIS as example. There are no public exit routes (incl emergency exits) that lead directly out from FIS except one. That exit is to the front of the terminal which can be immediately shut. Then there are two emergency exits inside FIS one to the north, one to the south which lead to closed off outside courtyard, where people can be corralled. Other option is proceed in reverse, back to either the gates, transit lounge facility or busing gates which are located on different levels which afford large space to hold people again. Short of having a key and access badging movement is greatly limited beyond these options. The facilities were designed this way for security. You would not want someone to purposely create a situation and simply slip out of the facility via an exit easily.



From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
User currently offlineB2468 From United States of America, joined Sep 2009, 90 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 2612 times:



Quoting LAXintl (Reply 10):

Thanks for this information...this is really the kind of answer I was looking for! I assume, that at TBIT, the CBP and other security personnel would be the last to evacuate the facility, correct?

What kinds of things would happen at airports in other countries (not EU/USA/Canada)?



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