Exclusive: Metro lost remote control of ventilation fans during glitch Thursday

WASHINGTON — Metro lost remote control of its ventilation fans for at least nine minutes Thursday morning after experiencing an IT failure that also led to systemwide delays.

Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel emphasized that the fans could still be activated manually at the bottom of each fan shaft, but acknowledged that the Rail Operations Control Center could not control any of the fans quickly and remotely during Thursday’s connectivity outage caused by a failure during IT maintenance and testing.

“Emergency responders or personnel can take local control of any of these devices,” Stessel said. “It’s like if you lost your remote control to your TV. Your TV still works, you still have the ability to control your TV, it’s just you don’t have the ability to do it from your sofa.”

The most direct impacts felt by riders during and after the incident were delays across the system because the control center was unable to remotely flip the heavily used switches at the points where different lines merge or split apart. Instead, those switches had to be flipped by hand.

While Stessel said initial connections were restored in about nine minutes, some systems still had to be rebooted after that and ripple effects lasted longer.

“Primarily it was a switch and signal issue resulting in delays to customers and that’s unfortunate, and I just want to say again, our apologies to everyone who was effected by this,” Stessel said.

“We know exactly why this happened and we know exactly how to prevent a recurrence,” he added.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report. 

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