Panic Led to Evacuation of Terminal at International Airport — Again

P assengers were temporarily evacuated earlier today from Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport after an arrest of a person who was suspected of driving a stolen 2013 Chevrolet Sonic automobile and possessing narcotics led to a security breach.

Panic Led to Evacuation of Terminal at International Airport — Again

Law enforcement officers held the suspect at gunpoint during the arrest and instructed nearby passengers on the sidewalk to move inside — which led to some passengers who were fearful for their safety to bypass the Transportation Security Administration screening area without being screened; while as many as 20 others went through an emergency exit and onto the airfield. The resulting security breach led to the evacuation of the terminal, where as many as 2,000 passengers were required to be screened again.

“Airport security rounded up those travelers and evacuated the gates, shops, restaurants and corridors inside Terminal 3, sending passengers back to the ticketing area,” according to this article written by David Zahniser for the Los Angeles Times. “LAX police searched the terminal with bomb-sniffing dogs and, once the area was cleared, allowed passengers to return and be rescreened.”

As many as 18 flights were delayed as a result of this incident.

Déjà Vu All Over Again?

Only one week elapsed for the third panic at a major international airport within a month to occur — two of them at Los Angeles International Airport.

Reports from multiple sources indicated that shots were fired at Terminals 6, 7 and 8 of Los Angeles International Airport at approximately 8:45 in the evening on Sunday, August 28, 2016. Those terminals were evacuated; but no evidence of shots fired by anyone was confirmed, which resulted in what appeared to be a false alarm.

Two weeks prior to that incident, reports of shots fired led to the evacuations of two terminals at John F. Kennedy International Airport — but no evidence of shots fired by anyone was confirmed, which resulted in what also appeared to be a false alarm.

In all three incidents, flights were delayed.


I am not at liberty to question whether law enforcement officers chose the best way of attempting to keep the situation under control — I was not there and do not know all of the facts — nor question what passengers saw and thought that caused them to panic; but there has to be a way to mitigate these incidents, as they are costly, affect thousands of people, and do nothing to improve safety and security at airports in general. How many more of these needless evacuations do we need to happen before they lead to a “boy who cried wolf” effect to occur?

Once again — although I can understand the initial reaction of fear — people have to stop being so afraid, as that is exactly what terrorists want. Everything we do in life comes with at least some modicum of risk — and people have to accept that fact. I continue to be amazed at how frightened are people pertaining to a chance at being directly affected by an act of terrorism when there is a far greater chance of being killed in a car crash — and yet few people are afraid to step into a car.

We have to show terrorists and other people who want to dictate how we live our lives that we are indeed not afraid. Living in fear is like living in a prison; and when part of the source of that fear is self-imposed, we cannot live our lives to the fullest.

In my opinion, keen and acute awareness of your surroundings is one of the most important ways to protect yourself — as well as to reduce the chances of being involved in an unnecessary display of panic by other people, which would reduce the number of unwarranted incidents which have occurred at major international airports such as the ones in New York and Los Angeles.

Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

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