It is the policy of the Airports Authority to cooperate with the news media to the greatest extent possible. Our primary responsibilities, however, are safe and orderly airport operations. When there is an emergency situation at either Dulles or Reagan National that is expected to generate extensive media attention, the following procedures will serve as our guidelines:
Contact Information for Media During Emergencies
In the event of a major emergency on Airports Authority property, a Media Relations representative and/or Public Information Officer will report to the scene. During regular work hours, staff will also answer media calls in the Media Relations Office.
(703) 417-8370. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. This number may be staffed after hours depending on the nature of the emergency.
Please note: The early minutes of an emergency situation are spent responding to the emergency and calling in appropriate staff.
For emergency media requests, after-hours, on weekends or holidays send an emergency message to Media Relations using the Emergency Media Contact Form. Provide your media organization's name and telephone number.
- Briefings may be conducted by the Airport Manager or Incident Commander as the situation warrants. If an aircraft accident is involved, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigating team will take charge of the investigation and the release of any information relative to that investigation. In circumstances where only property damage occurs, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may conduct the investigation. Other federal agencies, such as Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and others may be involved.
- Only members of recognized media organizations with appropriate visible identification will be permitted at media briefings and on the Air Operations Area (AOA) or transported to the scene of the emergency. At times, it may be necessary to pool media resources.
- Until the arrival of the Media Relations representative or Public Information Officer, questions regarding the emergency or access to the site will be decided by the Incident Commander or his/her designee.
- Based on the nature of the situation at hand, the Incident Commander will determine any restrictions on the movement of the media that may be necessary to allow a safe and orderly response to an incident.
- Photographs and video may be taken from any area where access has been permitted, however, emergency responders may restrict the use of flash, strobes, and other high intensity lighting that might affect their response to the situation.
- The media must not restrict the public's access to gates, ticket counters, baggage areas, or other areas in the terminal or on Airport property.
- While the Airports Authority recognizes the importance of interviewing victims of an aircraft or other emergency situation, we believe our first responsibility is to the victims and their families and their right to privacy. If any individuals are reluctant to be interviewed or photographed, the Authority will support their decision.
- In addition, during an aircraft accident, access to passengers may be subject to approval by the involved airline, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and/or the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
- Media representatives are asked not to resist, obstruct, oppose or interfere with any law enforcement officer in the lawful execution of his or her duties, and are not exempt from any federal, state or local laws.
- The Airports Authority Media Relations representative, in coordintation with the Incident Commander, will make every effort to provide a working area for Credentialed media.
Briefing Areas for the Media (may be adjusted, depending on the incident)
Dulles Airport: Media Pad, located outside on the departures level in the area between the Main Terminal and Daily Garage #2. Only TV live trucks may park here. Other media vehicle parking is available in the public parking lots.
Reagan National Airport: North terrace of Terminal C, located on the upper (ticketing) level, outside or inside Door #6. Only TV live trucks may park along the roadway adjacent to this location. Other media vehicle parking is available in the public parking lots.
If a situation is expected to require an escort for the media to a site on the airfield, the media will be advised where to report at that time.
If a press conference is to be held elsewhere, the media will be advised of the location and parking arrangements.
During an emergency situation, the Airports Authority representative will be able to provide only the following information:
- Date and time of incident
- Name of airline
- Type of aircraft and flight number
- Number of persons transported to hospitals
- Runway affected
- General description of the incident
- Conditions at the scene of the incident
- Impact on airport operations
Note: All other information must be provided by the airline representative or the appropriate federal agency. Airport personnel will only provide information that has been confirmed by either the airline, NTSB, TSA, FBI or FAA.
In a non-aircraft emergency situation, the Media Relations representative or Public Information Officer will coordinate the release of information with the Incident Commander. Airports Authority Police are in charge of investigating traffic accidents and criminal activities on airport property. Airports Authority Fire and Rescue handles fire and rescue operations on airport property.
As a rule, during an aircraft emergency:
- The cause of an aircraft crash or incident is released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after an investigation has been conducted. Until then, no agency will speculate about the cause of the incident.
- The passenger manifest (list of names of passengers and crewmembers on an aircraft) is released by the airline, not the airport.
- Airport security information will be handled by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
- Information on air traffic control communication with the pilot of an aircraft involved in an incident is released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- Initial confirmation of any deaths resulting from the crash of a plane is made by the coroner, medical examiner, or other designated law enforcement officer, and information will not be released until family members are notified.
Airports Authority Departments Involved in Emergency Response
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Operations Department
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Operations Department maintains operational control of the Airport 24 hours per day, as designated by the Airport Manager.
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Department is an accredited law enforcement agency responsible for establishing and maintaining a security line at the incident site and ingress/egress points and patrolling the airfield. The Police Department also provides a variety of professional services such as crime investigation; accident reconstruction; canine explosive detection teams; and special operations.
Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Fire and Rescue Department
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Fire and Rescue Department is responsible for firefighting and emergency medical rescue operations at Dulles and Reagan National Airports, and river rescue at Reagan National Airport. On certain incidents, mutual aid may be called in from surrounding jurisdictions to augment the emergency response.
Other Non-MWAA Agencies Involved in Emergency Situations
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
The NTSB is the lead federal agency for investigating aircraft accidents. They also take custody of the aircraft and its contents from the time fire/rescue activities are concluded until a full investigation is completed, or a release is given. Upon the arrival of the NTSB investigating team, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Public Affairs Staff may assume a support role to the NTSB or the FAA at their request.
The NTSB also operates a Family Assistance program intended to provide for the family members of those involved in an aircraft incident, and work with the affected airline’s family assistance officials.
Federal Aviation Administration
Various branches of the FAA have responsibilities in an aircraft emergency. The FAA operates the control towers at Dulles and Reagan National Airports and would control the air traffic during an emergency to permit rescue equipment to proceed to the accident site. Once an aircraft alert is initiated by the FAA Air Traffic Control Tower at the Airport, the Airport Operations Office assumes control of the airfield until the emergency is ended.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
The TSA is responsible for airport security screening of passengers and baggage and other security functions at the nation's airports. In an emergency, TSA representatives will work with Authority personnel and public safety to work the incident as well as maintain the security of the airport and processing of passengers through security screening. The Department is also responsible for the Air Marshal Program and Customs and Border Protection.
The involved airline is responsible for providing information regarding passengers aboard the aircraft and any detailed information about the flight, crew and the aircraft.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The FBI has jurisdiction if a hijacking or hostage taking incident occurs aboard an aircraft that is still on the ground. If the aircraft is in flight, and a hijacking or hostage-taking incident occurs, the FAA has jurisdiction with assistance from the TSA and FBI. Other potential emergencies will involve the FBI as well.