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Lessons Learned from the 2017 Boston Logan International Airport Active Shooter/Hostile Event Exercise

Topics: Emergency Management, Transportation,

In late September 2017, a major exercise to prepare for an active shooter/hostile event was conducted at Boston Logan International Airport. The airport’s Terminal C was transformed into a full-scale exercise site that involved over 1,300 airline and airport operations staff, law enforcement, emergency services, volunteer actors, and vendors. Shortly after midnight, shots rang out from plain-clothes police acting as active shooters, signaling the start of the exercise. The exercise play extended from the access roadways in front of the terminal, the ticketing and TSA security screening areas, airport shops and restaurants, the gate areas, inside an aircraft parked at the gate, and onto the airside ramp area.  Emergency personnel from municipalities surrounding the airport also mobilized and responded to the airport as they would for an actual shooting incident.

Initiated by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), this was the largest-scale exercise to be conducted at a major U.S. international airport for coping with the growing risk of hostile attacks. This report captures important lessons learned from the extensive year-long planning, training, preparatory exercises, execution, and after-action assessments.  These lessons are relevant not only for other airports, but also for large public venues to include transportation centers, university campuses, and sport and concert venues.

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