Officials propose airport changes in case of emergency

MIAMI (WSVN) - Almost one year after the deadly attack at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, officials have proposed changes to better prepare for an emergency.

7News spoke with employees, Tuesday, who were working on Jan. 6, 2017 when, police said, Esteban Santiago-Ruiz opened fire in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2 at FLL.

The workers said they want changes made, and the Broward County Commission may be on board.

“We had to do our best to run with the wheelchair and hide for cover,” said customer service agent Guelgure Guerilus. “If we had got good training in a situation like this, what to do, I think it will be a big plus for all of us.”

According to police, Santiago-Ruiz killed five people and wounded six others before he was stopped. Dozens of travelers were also hurt as they tried to get away.

Now, the Service Employees International Union, which represents thousands of airport workers employed at FLL, has called on the Broward County Commission to change all of that.

“We have various employers of those 15,000 people,” said Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, “and some probably do some training, others might not. We need to have one centralized place where we design training specifically to all local airports for our employees to protect the passengers who come through the airport.”

Jon McDuffie, a retired firefighter turned airport security expert, traveled to South Florida from California to offer suggestions.

“The traveling public does not know the difference between any uniformed employee. They don’t know if anyone is hired by a contractor or works for an airline,” Duffie said. “They have an expectation that people will be well prepared, well trained and able to assist them with anything that takes place.”

The recommendations made to the panel include:

  • Mandated emergency training for passenger service workers
  • Higher wages to reduce turnover
  • Better oversight of contractors operating at the airport

“It’s pennies on the dollar. It makes good common sense. It makes good business sense to do this kind of training,” Duffie said. “We look forward to moving forward of this.”

Employees are ready to move forward also. “Everyday I go to work, and I’m still scared,” said customer service agent Medjhie Bissainthe, “and I wonder when are they going to do something for us? When are they going to give us the training because we want the training.”

The accused gunman from last January’s shooting is still in custody awaiting trial.

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