FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Authorities are still going over A deadly shooting spree at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January left five dead and six wounded.
Esteban Santiago was accused of opening fire in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2.
Chaos followed as false reports of more gunfire sent thousands of passengers running for their lives onto runways. More than 2,600 officers from all over south Florida raced to help, but an independent report found many didn’t know what to do or where to go because there was no centralized command and the radio system was overloaded.
“We clearly didn’t have unified command in response to this incident,” commented democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
She is leading a series of roundtable discussions with airport, county, BSO and union leaders about how to respond better in the future.
“There were many great plans, I believe, that day of how to deal with what we dealt with that day,” said airport director Mark Gale. “Unfortunately, we ran into some challenges, some issues.”
The group came up with several areas of concentration, including fixing communication systems and working on unified command. One idea is an airport operations center.
“It puts all of the agencies on the airport property in the airport operations center on a daily basis,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “This is a group of people who are representing their agencies, working side by side in a well-coordinated way, getting to know one another, drilling with one another and the familiarity that that breeds.”
The roundtable group would also like to see better training, including 2,000 airport service workers who could be part of an emergency response.
“Other folks were out on the tarmac on that day with passengers,” recalled Helene O’Brien with the service employees union. “And everyone was coming to them asking them what to do. They had badges, they had uniforms and they had no idea what to tell people.”
Members of the roundtable group have met three times now reviewing the actions of that January day, looking for ways to make improvements. Some of the ideas would need approval before being put into place.