The below is an open letter to BVI Airports Authority Managing Director Kurt Menal.
Dear Mr. Menal:
I read the BVI Airports Authority’s Oct. 30 press release about the Oct. 16 active shooter drill at the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport, and I am quite shocked and rather incensed that you would allow the BVIAA to post such an inaccurate press release.
As the managing director of the BVIAA, you should understand the importance of open and effective communication with the public and the ultimate priority of safety and security for passengers at all times.
You are paraphrased as saying, “In preparation for the drill, proactive measures were taken to inform the public about the upcoming exercise to reduce the possibility of alarm.”
I would ask you, what proactive measures were taken to inform the public about the upcoming exercise?
According to the press release, you went on to say, “We published a bulletin prior to the event, notifying the community of the exercise and its purpose. … On the day of the exercise, airline agents and passengers in the terminal building were duly notified of the drill. This was done to ensure that everyone at the airport was aware of the exercise, and there was no intention of causing any undue harm.”
I would ask you how the passengers and cafe workers were duly notified?
‘Why did we run?’
You also reported that “there were no official reports of panic or injury as a result of the exercise, which demonstrates the efficiency of the security procedures and the readiness of the staff in handling such situations.”
Then why did we run for our lives?
The passengers, patrons and cafe workers from the airport ran for our very lives out of the cafe and across a grassy knoll to the street. All of us were trembling, and one mother was crying hysterically because she had been separated from her children, who were in the airport proper near the actors portraying gunmen.
I work for a large hospital system in New Jersey that conducts active shooter drills at each of its 17 major hospitals several times a year. Notifications of drills are posted on big billboards on major streets leading to the hospitals days in advance of the drill. Poster-size signage is placed at every entrance by the security desk days in advance of the drill.
Finally, it is announced overhead to patients and families that a drill is being conducted and not to be alarmed.
Never and in any way are patients and families involved in the drill!
The above practice is called duly notifying the public.
The above practice is called keeping patients and families safe and secure.
The above practice is called mitigating alarm and panic.
The press release stated that the BVIAA “remains fully committed to the safety and security of all individuals utilising our airports and will continue to maintain compliance with all regulatory requirements that help us to provide a safe and efficient gateway to the Virgin Islands and the rest of the world.”
I am recovering from two broken ankles and ran in panic as I witnessed two men I believed to be gunmen enter the airport with guns held high. Sadly, this is a sight I cannot unsee. Yes, I did reinjure my left ankle and have had several x-rays and an MRI to help sort out the new pain and swelling, as well as the setback I now have in walking.
Sadly, the only memory I have from the five-day vacation is the memory of what I experienced in the airport.
I would implore that you acutely examine your processes for an “active shooter drill” and bring them up to industry standard.
I seek an apology to all passengers who experienced this dreadful event.
And finally, I seek compensation for myself and three fellow travellers in the form of a refund of our entire ticket and insurance policy.