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Metro addresses improvements made in emergency incidents

Thursday - 2/20/2014, 7:51pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- More than a year ago, two trains lost power and remained stuck in the tunnels outside the Anacostia Metro station for several hours, causing havoc during the evening rush.

Now Metro is taking a look at what has changed regarding how the agency tries to improve their response to such incidents.

During the Jan. 2013 incident, the Anacostia station was packed to capacity with little communication about what was going on, as well as problems coordinating Metrobus service.

"We've added some technology that gives station managers information similar to what you see on Twitter. Prior to this, station managers didn't have radios, so if they left that kiosk to help customers, they were disconnected from the information coming to them," says Lynn Bowersox, Metro assistant general manager of Customer Affairs, Communications and Marketing.

"Radios allow them to be more mobile. They can be now be at the fare gates, they can be down on the platform, and they're still able to talk to the control center during an incident."

Board member Mortimer Downey, chair of the Safety and Security Committee, says he's pleased at the work Metro is doing.

"I think stations are doing better in these incidents. We can do a better job. But bullhorns in the stations, more radios, any way we can get more information quicker in these situations is a good thing," he says.

A report finished months later found that on the two trains, one conductor kept passengers well-informed, while the other did not. Passengers ended up self-evacuating, which Metro says was dangerous and exacerbated the incident.

"Training is important. But a train operator is just one person and they're trying to address the situation, so safety has to be their first priority. Communication is a close second. What we're doing now is deploying rail supervisors and police in situations where customers need extra assistance and information, especially when the train is stopped and they can get onboard a train," says Bowersox.

Downey says he hopes Metro can convince more train operators to perform better during incidents to keep riders informed through incentives.

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