Metro to make changes after deadly smoke incident

WASHINGTON — Metro is making changes after that deadly smoke event on the Yellow Line last week.

Metro Deputy General Manager Rob Troup on Thursday ordered a list of 10 actions aimed at improving safety.

The steps are not formal recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board.

“I must emphasize that these steps should not be interpreted as being related to the cause of the L’Enfant incident,” Troup said, in a news release issued by Metro.

At the top of the list is teaching train operators to turn off the air intake the moment a train stops because of smoke.

Christopher Hart, who heads the NTSB, came before the Metro board. He says there were “discrepancies” in the ventilation system. Those will be checked again.

 During the meeting Thursday, Metro General Manager Jack Requa said that on Jan. 7 it was determined that there was spotty coverage on D.C. Fire radios in the transit system. Recognizing that it is Metro’s responsibility to maintain the radio system, staff looked for everything possible that it could find to solve the communication problem.

By the end of the weekend, staffers had more questions than answers, and on the morning of Jan. 12, the day of the smoke event, they contacted D.C. Fire personnel to indicate that they couldn’t find the problem, and they wanted to enter the area where radio signals connect to figure out the problem.

They set a date of Jan. 14 to meet.

Subsequent to the smoke event, Metro did meet with fire department.

“We found out that they had made some adjustments to their radio system primarily through encryption of their system, which impacted our ability to have their radio system work,” Requa says.

Those adjustments were made and then tested on Jan. 14 and they do work.

Here are the safety action items Troup ordered:

1. Write SOP for train operator to cut EV immediately upon stopping for smoke incident. (RTRA, Completion – 1/22/2015)

Note: The minute a train stops for a smoke incident, the train operator will turn off air intake systems. Under the former SOP, the instruction for turning off air intake comes from the Rail Operations Control Center. This is not related to tunnel fans.

2. Write SOP for incident management in ROCC to provide specifics for site discipline in the ROCC to avoid cross-talk and unnecessary interactions. (RTRA, Completion – 1/26/2015)  

Note: To ensure that key personnel who are responsible for managing an incident are not distracted, this SOP will ensure that ROCC employees stay at their own desks and not engage those managing the incident.

3. Set schedule for next three years for emergency quarterly drills to be conducted wayside. Sequence station, then a tunnel section, then an elevated section (note tunnel and elevated sections shall be between stations). Please sequence each quarter in a separate jurisdiction. Coordinate type of drill and logistics with MTPD. (RTRA, Completion – 1/26/2015)

4. Design and implement exterior signage for exterior doors to clearly delineate access in event of emergency. (TIES, Completion – 2/13/2015)

Note: Metro has an extensive training program for emergency responders. However, in the event that one of the trained responders is not first on scene, there will be new signage on the outside of the train to identify emergency doors and access points.

5. Provide engineering and operations report on all third rail jumper cables in tunnel sections for condition and installation. (TIES, Completion – 2/27/2015)

Note: Metro personnel will conduct inspections looking for wear and tear on cables and assess the condition of cable installations.

6. Recommendation on installation of low smoke/low halogen on high voltage third rail jumper cables. (TIES, Completion – 2/13/2015) 

Note: Already an ongoing effort under its rebuilding program, Metro is installing low-smoke cables.  

7. Install mechanical protection on third rail jumper cables that may be exposed to wear from vibration against other materials. (TIES – Begin work immediately)

Note: If a cable that has begun to lean over the years (as a result of vibration), then install protection (such as PVC) to prevent the cable from coming in contact with other materials.

8. Review of ground fault detectors on third-rail circuit breakers. (TIES, Completion 2/27/2015)

9. Operational analysis of running trains at 45 MPH in the core with limited acceleration. (TIES and RTRA – 3/31/2015)

Note: This will be an operational analysis to see if Metro can limit current flowing through electrical infrastructure.

10. Provide report on installing zoned smoke detectors using ETS boxes for location and transmitting of information, also investigate use of wireless smoke detectors. (TIES, Completion – 2/27/2015)

Note: The report will determine feasibility.

WTOP’s Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.

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