The emergency response to November’s deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport was hampered by poor communication and a lack of coordination between agencies, problems that contributed to a chaotic evacuation and delays reaching victims, officials said Tuesday.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, citing a new report on the shooting, said confusion following the attack that left a federal security officer dead largely stemmed from a lack of communication between first-responders and the traveling public.
The report on the Nov. 1 incident evaluated the performance of public safety agencies and the emergency management team of Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX.
“The biggest failure was the lack of communication,” Garcetti said at a news conference at LAX.
Garcetti, as well as law enforcement and airport officials, credited police for responding within minutes to a call of an active shooter inside Terminal 3, and a swift-thinking airport employee who dialed airport police dispatch from his cellphone.
But once first-responders arrived, they had trouble communicating because they did not have radios that operated together, Garcetti said.
It also took 45 minutes for agencies to put together a unified command structure following the shooting, the report said, and an incident command post “did not ever fully mature.”
Auditors found “technical malfunction” in the Terminal 3 emergency alert system following the shooting, the report said. An airport-wide study found that other panic alarms and some red emergency phones were also not working properly.
The first contact with emergency personnel came a minute after the shooting, when a TSA agent picked up a red phone in the terminal, then dropped it, the report said. Dispatchers heard shooting but no details and did not know where it was happening.
About a minute later, an airport employee who had the airport police’s dispatch number programmed into his cellphone called to report the shooting.
Garcetti said the airport will create an alert system that will automatically appear on cellphones in the area. Officials are also adding alarms that passengers or employees can pull in the terminal areas, and adding a universal public-address system throughout the terminals.
Garcetti also criticized California’s 911 system, which in some areas connects cellphone callers to the California Highway Patrol. He said he plans to push changes to dispatch procedures so that cellphone callers are connected to the closest law enforcement agency.