Official LAWA Document – Los Angeles International Airport Active Shooter Incident

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The following summary is from the 99-page, LAX/LAWA T3 After Action Report published March 18 2014.  Firestorm is currently engaged in the International Airport space, and applauds the careful review of the LAX Incident Response. 

LAWAArticleQuoteWe present report highlights here, with specific emphasis on Observation 19: Risk Management and Preparedness and the resulting Analysis which states in-part: “…However, though the assessments are valuable, there has been no consistent approach to harmonizing them, there is no means to integrate security and non-security risk as a baseline for decision-making, and follow-up appears to be on a case-by-case basis rather than part of a unified risk management program.

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners (BOAC) directed LAWA staff to prepare a comprehensive review of response and recovery efforts, including:  what happened, what could have been prevented, what response efforts worked well, and what areas of emergency management need improvement. 

The review also includes development of an improvement plan based upon recommendations drawn from lessons learned during the incident.  LAWA staff briefed the airport commissioners throughout the 3-1/2-month review process.  

The report analyzes 26 areas of the emergency response and recovery efforts in covering public safety, incident command, response operations, and emergency management and preparedness.

Introduction Timeline

At approximately 9:18 AM PST on November 1, 2013, an armed gunman entered Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport. The suspect approached a TSA Officer and fired at point blank range, killing the Officer within minutes. The suspect then made his way through the concourse shooting and wounding several other victims, including two TSOs and one passenger.

At 9:20 AM, Los Angeles World Airports Police Division ( LAWAPD) and Los Angeles Police Department ( LAPD) dispatch centers began receiving emergency calls about the shooting and immediately broadcast notifications to units in the vicinity.

At 9:25 AM, LAWAPD officers reported that the suspect was down at Gate 35 and, thirty seconds later, those officers had the suspect firmly in custody. Once Terminal 3 was secured, emphasis transitioned to police clearing operations across the rest of the LAX CTA. Meanwhile, Airport Operations focused on passenger assistance and mass care for the approximately 4,500 passengers who self-evacuated from Terminals 1, 2, and 3 and the more than 20,000 passengers who were sheltered in place on aircraft, and in terminals.

At approximately 2:00 PM, airline employees and flight crews were allowed to re-enter the CTA to prepare for normal operations.

At 4:00 PM, all screening checkpoints, except for Terminal 3, were reactivated and the CTA was opened for all vehicle traffic at 6:51 PM . Terminal 3 reopened at 1:05 PM on November 2. Response and recovery efforts lasted approximately 30 hours. Throughout that period, personnel from first responder agencies, tenants, airport executives and employees, and mutual aid agencies worked tirelessly to isolate and clear every threat, provide mass care for all passengers, and keep the public informed with the best information possible.

While the shooting was limited to the confines of Terminal 3 and only lasted a few minutes, the cascading effects were felt throughout the airport and the immediate surrounding area, with over 1,500 flights and 171,000 passengers affected.

What worked, what didn’t

LAWAAfterActionReportThe successful response and recovery to the active shooter incident and the airport-wide disruption that followed is largely attributable to several key factors:

  • The Los Angeles World Airports Police Division and City of Los Angeles Police Department officers who initially responded did so as a team, with courage, skill, and professionalism.
  • There was an immediate and substantial multiagency response by other public safety organizations from across the region, to include the Los Angeles City Fire Department and local police agencies.
  • A unified multiagency command was established and maintained throughout, to include the direct involvement of airport operations.
  • The entire response team was leaning hard on two overarching objectives: protecting the people at LAX from any further harm, and verifying the safety of the airport to facilitate its rapid recovery.

While the overall response was successful, there were key lessons learned that indicate the need for improvement by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) in partnership with its public safety partners:

  • Emergency alert and warning systems, to include duress phones or “Red Phones,” need to be updated and the technologies for 911 notifications to Airport Police must be better integrated.
  • Although the emphasis on multiagency coordination and unified command was very strong among the agencies participating, there needs to be continuing emphasis on incident command basics.
  • While major efforts were made to use social networking and commercial media to inform the general public, public mass notification within the airport was lacking and must be addressed.
  • Even though significant attention and resources have been applied, the observations in this report indicate a need to take a more focused risk-based approach to security and preparedness.

Contact this article’s Author, Jim Satterfield

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Since 2005, Firestorm has assisted clients by responding to some of the largest and most complex critical incidents. Our highly-trained team is an industry leader in providing custom safety and security solutions. Firestorm empowers its clients to manage security risks through assessments, audits, program development, training and advisory services using our PREDICT.PLAN.PERFORM.® methodology.

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