LAX creates emergency response team

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Officials at Los Angeles International Airport are seeking volunteers among its full-time workforce to staff a response team designed to assist travelers during emergency operations.

The creation of the Airport Response Team — or ART — follows criticism that passengers were not kept informed after the deadly Terminal 3 shooting rampage earlier this month, the Daily Breeze reported Tuesday.

The team would be activated during emergencies and tasked with communicating with passengers and airport visitors. It would start with about 100 members but could grow to 300, according to Barbara Yamamoto, the airport's customer service director.

"We want them to focus on comfort, care and communication," she told the newspaper. "We have employees who want to help."

In the hours after the Nov. 1 shooting that killed Transportation Security Administration officer Gerardo Hernandez, many travelers waited for hours on roads in and around the airport, without knowing when they would let back into terminals. Streets near the airport were closed, so travelers who wanted to leave were forced to walk long distances.

On Nov. 5 City Councilman Mike Bonin introduced a measure asking airport officials to report back within 45 days about how they could improve crisis communication.

"One of the things that jumped out at me was the idea that a wide range of airport employees were not deployed to help share information with passengers," he said.

ART members will be mobilized to pass out water, snacks, diapers, formula and blankets. They'll also take customer calls on a special phone information line and assist with crowd control. Many will be expected to speak languages other than English.

The response team will consist of airport employees who usually have no duties during emergencies. Response team members could be called on to work at any time, and they'll be asked to work shifts as long as 12 hours. They would be paid wages, including overtime.

Team members will receive special vests, caps, whistles and flashlights, among other equipment.

Training will begin Dec. 11.