What not to do: Metro to unveil new safety signs

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Metro has unveiled plans for new train evacuation instructions after passengers on the Green Line self-evacuated during an emergency in January.

“The current signs are hard to read, hard to understand and there a lot of words on them,” says Metro’s Lynn Bowersox.

“We’ve looked at research about how people behave in an emergency … and one thing we’re certain about is that people don’t read much in an emergency.”

Bowersox says the signs need to be simplified, easier to read with clear and concise directions.

“In the event of an emergency, stay on the train and listen for train operator instruction,” reads a prototype.

The sign would also glow in dark in situations similar to the one on the Green Line.

“There will be more people on the train that understand they should not self-evacuate,” says Metro General Manager Richard Sarles. “When the leader says we should evacuate, other people could [say] ‘Hey, wait a minute, that’s not a good thing to do.”

Some on the committee questioned whether the sign goes far enough.

“I think we need to use words like ‘electrocution’ and de-emphasize criminal prosecution,” says Metro board member Kathy Porter, aruging that young people rebelling against authority see the signs as an invitation.

Other want the signs to catch people’s attention.

“Get off the train and you might get killed,” suggests board member James Dyke.

However, board member Mortimer Downey points out that some information should remain, such as instructions on how to open the door in an emergency.

“We will take those suggestions, research it with our customers, then decide on what’s most effective,” Sarles says.

Meanwhile, one solution could come when the 7,000 series rail cars arrive. They have the capability to link intercoms to the command center, allowing Metro employees to talk directly to passengers and keep them informed in an emergency.

Currently, only train operators can talk to passengers on the intercoms.

The first 7,000 series cars will arrive later this year, with more to arrive over the next six years.

“Where we have to work further on is right on the train, during the incident, how we can better communicate with customers,” Sarles says.

Metro is still reviewing the January incident and developing new training to keep everyone working together in a similar incident.

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