Metro hits the water for sixth emergency response drill

WASHINGTON — Metro had another full-on emergency training drill Sunday, but this time, it happened over the water.

Yellow Line train service had been stopped Sunday between L’Enfant and Pentagon stations because of the training exercise, but was expected to resume in the afternoon.  This simulated emergency training was one of Metro’s required quarterly full-scale training drills.

The scenario for the drill this Sunday morning involved a Yellow Line train with about 65 people on-board derailing on a bridge that crosses the Potomac River.

In the drill, the train was heading from D.C. to Virginia and when it derailed, it was partially in Virginia and partially in D.C. Firefighters from D.C. had to walk the long bridge to rescue passengers because one of the derailed trains caught on fire and was blocking access to Virginia.

“This is one of our bigger ones [drills] because it involves the water aspect and then the District and also Virginia,” Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said.

Wiedefeld said these are the types of training exercises that Metro wants; the more complicated the better.  He also added that this scenario presents a whole other series of issues, logistically speaking.

In addition to the emergency response by land, there was an emergency response by water, too.

Up until now, the quarterly training drills have dealt with only one jurisdiction. But this scenario involved both D.C. and Virginia.

”This is one we’re really impacting the region and we want to see how the region responds,” Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik said.

Communications is a major focus during these drills. During the prior drill in July, there were issues with first responders communicating with passengers.

One communication issue first responders had to deal with in Sunday’s drill was the very loud noise of commercial jets flying overhead, since the exercise was taking place in the flight path of National Airport.

“As the planes go over it’s very hard to communicate,” Wiedefeld said, which is one of the reasons why Metro does these drills in real-life conditions and not just as table top exercises.

Sunday’s training included Metro Transit Police, Arlington Fire Department, D.C. Fire and EMS, Alexandria Fire Department, Prince George’s County Fire Department, U.S. Park Police, U.S. Park Service and the National Transportation Safety Board.  More than 100 emergency responders and volunteers were expected.

Watch the full-scale bridge exercise:

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