ACRP Research Report 171: Establishing a Coordinated Local Family Assistance Program for Airports shows airports how to assist victims and families impacted by an aviation disaster. This guidebook incorporates best practices for planning an effective response while coordinating with different partners (e.g., air carriers, NTSB, NGOs, vendors, etc.). It is adaptable to both general aviation and commercial service airports of any size, and addresses legislated and non-legislated events while complementing federal regulatory and statutory requirements.
The guidebook includes all components necessary to ensure a coordinated and compassionate response to survivors and families and includes a description of key terminology, federal regulatory and statutory requirements, history and background of the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act (ADFAA), and development of a strategic plan for creating and implementing a local airport victim and family assistance program. It identifies tasks associated with initial response periods and subsequent response, recovery, and post-recovery periods, as well as components of a family assistance communication plan and strategies to incorporate it into the overall crisis communication plan including impacts at origination, destination, and connecting airports, among many other elements. It also includes sample checklists, generic informational brochures and registration forms for family and survivor gathering areas, guidance on how to conduct family and survivor briefings, a crisis communications training module, and materials to support an airport family assistance exercise.
Airports dedicate substantial resources to prepare and train for potential aviation incidents and accidents at or near their facilities. The immediate focus of every airport after an incident or accident is on the preservation of life and the protection of property. Yet these events also have complex ramifications for the airport as it works to meet the needs of both survivors and the families of victims while coordinating dissemination of information about the incident and continuing to manage the airport. In an accident resulting in a major loss of life, certain domestic and foreign airlines are federally mandated to implement specific tasks immediately as part of a formally developed, comprehensive Air Carrier Family Assistance Plan. These events are considered “legislated accidents.” Although implementation of air carrier plans happens rapidly, it may take specially trained family assistance teams hours to reach the affected airports. Airport operators normally serve as the immediate first-responders to the crash site; however, they must also be prepared to address the needs of family members, provide assistance to survivors, manage media, and ensure continued airport operations during this initial period. In “non-legislated” accidents, or for accidents where there is limited or no air carrier support, the airport may need to assume the primary role in supporting victims and families throughout the entire event. This research identified best practices, programs, and established procedures and training for airports to assist victims and families impacted by an aviation accident including federally mandated airline response requirements. Establishing these practices and procedures will provide a more standardized, coordinated, and compassionate response to an aviation accident. These actions ultimately benefit the survivors, family members, the airport, and its community.
Under ACRP Project 06-03, research was conducted by Tetra Tech, led by Sue Warner-Bean, LLC and in association with Ken Jenkins LLC, Jennifer Stansberry Miller, and Rick Hoagland. The Guidebook was developed through shared best practices, lessons learned, and interviews from a mix of types and sizes of commercial and general aviation airports and air carriers across the United States as well as from survivors, friends, and family members impacted by aviation disasters.