Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Security Officer (TSO) Alfred Rotunno recently received the “Safe & Sound” award in the inaugural round of Philadelphia International Airport’s (PHL) Airport Employee Recognition Program. This award recognizes employees who protect the integrity and safety of passengers through proactive communication, exemplary teamwork, courage, and effective action.
Rotunno has worked at PHL for five years. In his role as a TSO, Rotunno is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of passengers courteously and professionally. “I direct passengers to the best of my ability to help their travel experience be as pleasant as possible while still maintaining the utmost security screening that I was sworn to do,” he said. “I’m also an on-the-job training coach for newly hired TSOs and I take a lot of pride in helping train future officers for our mission.”
Prior to joining the TSA, Rotunno worked in hospitality. He called on the extensive training and skills he developed in that industry to help extinguish a fire at Smashburger in PHL’s B/C Food Court this past June. In his nomination of Rotunno for the Employee Recognition Program, TSA Supervisor Aniello Talamo stated, “I would like to recognize and give a huge shout out to Transportation Security Officer Alfred Rotunno for his heroic actions that single-handedly prevented a catastrophe from occurring at Philadelphia International Airport.”
While Rotunno was on his break in the B/C Food Court, he overheard a commotion from the nearby Smashburger. He saw flames and smoke billowing from the restaurant’s kitchen and noticed an employee panicking and frantically yelling for help. Without hesitation, Rotunno threw down his lunch, jumped out of his chair, and ran over the counter.
With experience in commercial kitchens from his previously owned business, Rotunno knew that the fire had the potential of escalating quickly. “Once Alfred gained access to the kitchen, he was face to face with flames emanating from the commercial deep fryers that reached as high as the vent hood and began to melt the plastic off of the order monitor screen above the grill,” said Talamo. “Alfred knew instantly that a fire involving a fryer involves oil and grease, and if not extinguished properly, things can go from bad to worse or even catastrophic.”
Although Rotunno told the Smashburger employee to remain calm and pour flour or salt on the flames, the employee was too shocked and frozen to take action. Thankfully after searching the kitchen, Rotunno found the closest fire extinguisher and put out the fire with a few sprays.
“Had Alfred not been there, or had he not known how to handle the situation, an entire business could have been lost. Even worse, the risk of serious injury would have been detrimental. Had he not stepped into action, the fire quite possibly would not have been contained and could have caused severe structural damage to PHL,” said Talamo.
When Rotunno is not working, he likes to get as much rest as possible, work out and spend time with his family. He decided to apply for a job with TSA not long after selling his restaurant in 2014. Although originally from Maryland, Rotunno found a job opportunity in Philadelphia. “I was contacted by HR from PHL, and they asked if I would consider joining the team here. I thought about it and said, ‘why not.’ After getting acclimated to this position, it didn't take long to see how important this job was to the security aspect of the aviation industry. I make sure that any objects that compromise the integrity of safe travel do not get past me,” he said.
When asked what he enjoys about his job, Rotunno said, “Being a small part of the aviation industry is rewarding-- knowing I am doing my part to keep things as safe as I possibly can, as well as sharing that knowledge for future fellow officers. TSA is all about teamwork from the second you're checked in by our document personnel down to having your bag physically screened.”
The PHL Employee Recognition Program was established by the airport’s Guest Experience (GX) Department. Honorees are nominated by supervisors, peers or colleagues across the airport and selected by the GX Stakeholder Council Employee Conduct Working Group. For more information, click here.