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Metro: Protocols not followed in Green Line outage

Thursday - 1/31/2013, 8:25pm  ET

John Aaron, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Metro has launched an investigation into what went wrong on the Green Line on Wednesday night, when a power outage led to what transit officials are calling a dangerous and potentially deadly situation.

The 5 p.m. power outage left trains stranded between the Navy Yard and Anacostia stations. Service was out for about two hours. But Metro said as many as 150 passengers decided to get off the train, and climb down onto the tracks in an attempt to get moving.

Metro General Manager Richard Sarles says the decision to cut the power was made by one of Metro's crews as they dealt with an electrical fire.

That alone should not have caused major problems, but Metro workers apparently failed to follow their own internal communications protocol and did not alert Metro's command center of the shutoff.

"There has to be communication about what just occurred, and then how can we get out of this quickly. And that did not occur the way it should," Sarles says.

A report on the incident is expected in two weeks at a meeting of Metro's Safety and Security Committee.

Metro is now reminding riders of the dangers of climbing onto the tracks.

Metro Spokesman Dan Stessel says riders should always assume that the third rail is active and hazardous. The energized rail can be deadly even if someone doesn't contact it directly.

Stessel says that after their train sat still for about 30 minutes, passengers began opening doors and exiting onto the track bed.

"Standing room only on a train without power is not the most pleasant experience, to say the least," he says.

Still, Stessel says its imperative riders stay on the train.

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