Uncontrolled Terminal Evacuations: Planning, Response, and Recovery

Planning for, managing, and recovery after an emergency event is critical, but it is especially challenging when the incident results in an uncontrolled evacuation of an airport terminal. For events such as fire drills, occupants will generally react in a more controlled and orderly matter when clearing a space and moving to a designated locations. An uncontrolled evacuation is the result of a spontaneous threat to the life of an individual causing the necessary and immediate egress of occupants from the area of the incident. Characteristics of uncontrolled evacuation include mass hysteria, panic, chaotic response, confusion, and self-direction.  In recent years, uncontrolled mass evacuation events across the United States have shown gaps in the response and recovery from these types of events and airports would benefit from specific guidance in preparing for these types of events. Challenges include the general physical and psychological care of the evacuees, effective critical communication with the general public, managing incorrect information and disinformation, the importance of building trust while effectively communicating, understanding and managing needs and resource distribution, and the recovery and reunification of the evacuees with loved ones and property. Resources may exist for airports, including those provided as a routine service by stakeholders and partners, but airports may be unaware of these available resources and how to leverage them. The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook that provides a framework for planning and operating considerations for uncontrolled terminal evacuation events. The guidebook should include scalable and replicable emergency action plan template(s) and checklist(s) for airports of all sizes to develop a plan to manage an uncontrolled terminal evacuation, including guiding evacuees away from the immediate threats, and recover from the event, including subsequent care of the evacuees. Additionally, case studies of events that have actually occurred should be used to identify and demonstrate best practices for airports of representative sizes and characteristics as well as different types of uncontrolled evacuation events.  Considerations for the guidebook, template(s), and checklist(s) should include, at a minimum: (1) Recovery processes and best practices from uncontrolled terminal evacuation (2) Essential skillsets and the appropriate training for all levels of airport employees and tenants (3) Plan maintenance including plan updates, recurrent training, exercises, and changes in airport operations and configurations (4) Effective communication with employees, tenants, passengers, and mutual responders (5) Movement and flow of evacuees throughout airport facilities and understanding the impact to, and capabilities of, internal and external transportation systems, airport facilities, and public access management (6) Efficient transport of people to safe areas on- or off-site via both internal and external transportation systems  (7) Psychological effects on all evacuees and responders including employees, tenants, passengers, etc. (8) Identifying internal, external, and non-traditional resources, and developing relationships and memorandum of understandings (MOUs) to be able to effectively apply these assets (9) Identifying and leveraging existing processes and systems already in place (10) Physical design elements and capital planning considerations (11) After action reviews and instituting lessons learned (12) Discuss various methods for studying the impacts of these types of events on airport facilities including simulation modeling and providing airports various methods for validating their plans.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $400000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 04-26

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Airport Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Aviation Administration

    800 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  United States  20591
  • Project Managers:

    Griffin, Matthew

  • Performing Organizations:

    Salus Solutions, LLC

    Wake Forest, NC  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Duncan, Marc

  • Start Date: 20211208
  • Expected Completion Date: 20230608
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01748061
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 04-26
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: Aug 17 2020 4:34PM