You may have heard local news reports about a hazardous materials call that caused the brief evacuation of a portion of Terminal 2 on Wednesday, July 3. Now that the situation has passed, I wanted to share the story behind the news story.
I was in my office when our emergency notification system alerted us to a possible hazardous materials situation in Terminal 2. I then turned on my airport radio and started monitoring communication between our Fire-Rescue and Police departments. It wasn’t long before I heard the words that put us into motion. There was going to be an evacuation of a portion of Terminal 2.
What did that tell me? First, our Fire-Rescue crews were having trouble identifying a liquid that had leaked out of an unclaimed bag on the carrousel. Second, that our team was following pre-established procedures to make sure our customers stayed safe. Third, the airport’s plan for responding to hazardous materials was getting ready to kick into gear.
The response was a team effort. Our Fire-Rescue crew took the lead and worked with the City of Raleigh’s hazardous materials unit to identify the substance. RDU Police crews evacuated the bag claim area and ensured others did not enter the area. Guest Services staff worked to reroute customers from the area and to answer questions. After all, seeing men in moon suits and lots of yellow tape can be a bit disconcerting.
As the situation progressed, our staff worked off of contingency plans to keep airport operations running. Operations and Terminal Services personnel worked with the airlines to create alternate bag claim locations for incoming passengers. The ticketing lobby and concourses were unaffected and, except for the bag claim area, it was business as usual. Our Central Communications team made in-terminal announcements to redirect passengers and to share information as it became available.
Outside the terminals, traffic control officers and our ground transportation department worked to reroute cars, passengers, busses and shuttles to either Terminal 1 or the upper level of Terminal 2. And my team worked to gather information and share it with the news media and via social media to keep the public informed.
Throughout the entire situation, your safety came first. Unfortunately, there were some minor inconveniences, but they were necessary as our team ensured there was no cause for concern. There was not, and, after 90 minutes, the bag claim area reopened.
The culprit? Fortunately, it was a just a type of medicine that wasn’t easily identifiable.