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Rep. Kathleen Rice calls for hearings on airport security

Passengers hunker down at immigration control while police

Passengers hunker down at immigration control while police looked for an active shooter at Kennedy Airport on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016. The report was unfounded. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Brigitte Dusseau

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) is calling for a congressional hearing to discuss how prepared the nation’s airports are for active shooter situations, after unfounded reports of gunfire at airports in New York and Los Angeles sparked pandemonium for passengers and authorities last month.

Rice, who sits on the Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security, wrote to the subcommittee’s chairman, John Katko (R-Camillus), on Tuesday asking for the forum.

“The recent incidents at JFK and LAX have made it clear that our airports are not fully prepared to respond to active shooter situations, which are increasingly becoming terrorists’ preferred method of attack,” the letter said.

A report of a shooter at Kennedy Airport on Aug. 14 prompted authorities to shut down two terminals and airlines to cancel flights. Similarly, a report of a shooter at the Los Angeles airport two weeks later sent panicked passengers streaming out of exits and even onto the tarmac. In both cases, the reports were unfounded.

“Given the threats we face right now, we need to expect and prepare for these kinds of emergencies. If there are reports of an active shooter, airport workers should know immediately how to respond and what procedures to follow,” Rice’s letter continued.

“That clearly wasn’t the case in these two incidents, so we need to find out why, and we need to ensure that every airport in this country has a comprehensive emergency response plan in place and that all airport employees get the training they need to execute that plan if and when the time comes,” Rice said.

Days after the Kennedy Airport event, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced he would create a review panel to study how the false report caused so much chaos.

Rice noted that the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015, which Katko helped draft, “requires the Transportation Security Administration to confirm that all airports have incident response plans for events such as an active shooter or act of terrorism,” but noted that at least one security officer at Kennedy said in a media report that he had not been trained for such situations.

Rice said she hopes the hearing takes place this month.

Coleman Lamb, a spokesman for Rice, said on Wednesday Rice had not yet received a response from Katko’s office.

Aides to Katko could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.


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