The National Academies

ACRP Synthesis 11-03/Topic S04-24 [Active (Synthesis)]

Practices in Airport Emergency Plans
[ ACRP 11-03 (Synthesis of Information Related to Airport Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 6/30/2019 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Gail R. Staba
Research Agency: Tidal Basin Group, LLC
Principal Investigator: Stephanie Murphy
Fiscal Year: 2019

   Final Scope

While 14 CFR Part 139, Certification of Airports, and FAA Advisory Circular 150/5200-31C, Airport Emergency Plan (AEP), establishes standards, functional sections and hazards required in AEPs, the depth and format of AEPs varies across airports in the US. While all certificated airports’ AEPs conform to the regulation and follow the implementing advisory circular, some airports enhance their emergency planning by expanding functional sections and/or referencing other stand-alone plans not fully reviewed by FAA but developed to guide emergency responders.  While not required, some non-certificated airports follow guidance and develop AEPs, or some variation that have a different structure, to guide emergency response.  ACRP has developed an AEP template that will be housed in the cloud and linked to the FAA website.  This tool automates AC 150/5200-31C and is expected to be online in Fall 2019. 

There are many documents outside of an approved AEP that airports use as actionable plans and training tools for emergency response.  This may indicate that there are challenges with the sufficiency of AEPs to be effective stand-alone response documents.  Airports generate other documents outside of their AEPs to make them actionable, potentially putting the airport in jeopardy with FAA approvals.  Many airports are unwilling to expand AEPs to be actionable and trainable, and instead keep them very general.  This tactic lessens the perception that an inspector will find differences between the AEP and actual response, leading to potential enforcement action by FAA.

It would be useful to understand the challenges that airports face when developing, revising and using their AEPs for emergency response and recovery.  The objectives of the synthesis are: [1] to identify the issues, challenges and work-arounds experienced by airport managers with AEPs as useful and actionable documents; and [2] understand FAA inspectors’ perspective with how AEPs ameliorate risks and guide emergency response actions.  The audience for this report are the airport community, FAA, and stakeholders.

Research to develop a concise synthesis of airport practice shall include the following:

  • Literature review
  • Interview of airport staff responsible for AEP development and maintenance to document information related to (representative of airport size, governance, certificated/non-certificated, regional diversity):
          oEnhancements to functional sections of AEPs
          oStand-alone actionable plans and other work-arounds
          oTraining-how is the AEP used for training, training formats and how often, and whether training is directly from the AEP or other documents developed as stand-alone
          oFollowing an incident, the types of additional information FAA inspectors have requested
          oPerceptions of the AEP review experience
          oIssues, challenges and opportunities, effective practices, lessons learned, open items
  • Interview of FAA inspectors to document information related to:
          oTraining-how is the AEP used for training, training formats and how often training is conducted
          oPerceptions of the AEP review experience-e.g., what are the most frequently experienced deficiencies identified during AEP review and post incident.
          oIssues, challenges and opportunities, effective practices
          oHow do you think about or handle plans that are more extensive than basic required
  • Effective practices, conclusions, knowledge gaps identified for further research

Partial Information Sources

14 CFR Part 139, Certification of Airports, 2012 [Online]. Available: http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/

AC 150/5200-31C Airport Emergency Plan (Change 2, 11/03/2010)

Blanchard, B.W.,Principles of Emergency Management and Supplement, Federal Emergency Management
Agency,Emmitsburg, Md., 2007.

Blanchard, B.W.,Guide to Emergency Management and Related Terms, Definitions, Concepts, Acronyms,
Organizations, Programs, Guidance, and Legislation, Federal Emergency Management Agency,
Emmitsburg, Md., 2008.

Corzine,S.,ACRP Report 93:Operational and Business Continuity Planning for Prolonged Airport
Disruptions,Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2013,
146 pp.

Deal,T.,M.de Bettencourt,V.Huyck, G.Merrick and C. Mills, ICS:Beyond Initial Response—Using
the National Incident Management System’s Incident Command System, Authorhouse, Bloomington,
Ind., 2006.

Griffith,D.,et al., ACRP Report 12: Airport Terminal Incident Response Planning, Transportation
Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2014 [Online]. Available: http://

IEM Inc., Smith-Woolwine Associates, and TransSolutions, ACRP Report 73: Airport-to-Airport
Mutual Aid Programs, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington,
D.C., 2012.

IEM Inc., Smith-Woolwine Associates, Kim Kenville Consulting, Newton and Associates, and
Kimley-Horn and Associates, ACRP Report 94: Integrating Web-Based Emergency Management
Collaboration Software into Airport Operations—A Primer, Transportation Research Board of
the National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2013.

Smith, J.F., “Regional Cooperation, Coordination, and Communication Among Airports During
Disasters, Transportation Research Record, Journal of the Transportation Research Board,
No. 2177, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2010,
pp. 132–140.

Smith,J.F.and M.J. Mastrangelo, “Definitions of Resiliency and Resilient” [white paper], American
Public University System, Charles Town, W. Va., 2008.
Smith, J.F., F.McCosby,and S. Wareham, “Airports Helping Airports: Disaster Operations Groups,”
Airport Magazine,  Vol.21, No. 7, 2010, pp. 30–32.

Stambaugh, H., M. Argabright, H. Benaman, and M. Cheston, ACRP Report 103: A Guidebook for
Integrating NIMS for Personnel and Resources at Airports, Transportation Research Board of the
National Academies, Washington, D.C., 2014.

Topic Panel
Traci Clark, Cleveland Airport System
Scott A. Corzine, Ankura Consulting, Inc.
Terrence Daley, Transportation Public Health Preparedness Consultants, LLC
Paul Khera, Alaska DOT and Public Facilities
Meaghan Smalley, Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA)
Brandy Welch, Los Angeles World Airports
Marc Tonnacliff, Federal Aviation Administration
Christopher R. Bidwell, Airports Council International - North America
Christine Gerencher, Transportation Research Board

Stephanie Murphy
Tidal Basin Government Consulting, LLC

TRB Staff
Tanya M. Zwahlen, Transportation Research Board

First Meeting May 20, 2019
Teleconference: July 2, 2019; 1p EDT  
Second Panel Meeting: December 3, 2019 Washington DC

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