Orlando airport executive says lessons learned after battery explosion scare

Communication improvements needed to help get message out faster

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter
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ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando International Airport leaders met Monday to discuss how the airport handled an incident last week in which a camera battery exploded creating widespread panic and what they learned.

Greater Orlando Aviation Authority CEO Phil Brown said it was next to impossible for a few workers to get the message out to the masses that the incident was a non-emergency.

Just after 5 p.m. Friday a passenger’s bag near the security checkpoint for gates 1-59 began smoking because a lithium battery overheated and had exploded in the bag, according to Orlando police.

By 5:03 p.m. passengers had evacuated the terminal, which compromised the TSA checkpoints, Brown said. Once the situation was cleared all passengers had to return and go through the screening process again, creating delays for hours.

 "There was a lot of confusion and human nature took its course, there were a lot of people running for what they thought were their lives," Brown said. "The issue was when you have a terminal with 5,000 people and you're sending out messages you have to have the volume turned up and we need to make some improvement in those areas."

Brown said the airport is looking at technology to improve the way it communicates in an emergency, including using the fire alarm speakers and quickly utilizing electronic billboards to send a message.

"As an example one of the things we're looking at is whether we can use our fire annunciation system to send that message out. Because it's louder than the public address system," Brown said. "When this incident occurred, everyone fled, it's going to happen, have to be prepared for it."

Brown also said the airport will review evacuation procedures with all staff and airlines.

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