Review prompts Metro to make emergency response program changes

Metro will update its safety and emergency protocols following a March incident in D.C. involving a mechanical issue that left passengers stranded for over an hour on its rail system.

A Red Line train suffered a mechanical problem on March 26, stranding over 100 passengers near the Rhode Island Metro station in Northeast. An investigation into that disabled train uncovered numerous safety missteps.

Metro found that customers sat in railcars for 90 minutes without guidance, that a pair of passengers evacuated themselves and that communications with the system’s Rail Operations Control Center were inadequate.

It was also found that once passengers had been evacuated, the disabled train rolled for more than 100 feet on its own  — but the incident was not reported, as required.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said “it became clear to me that additional steps are needed to achieve our organizational commitment to a ‘Safety Trumps Service’ operating ethos,” according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post.

Metro said it will now require employees to trigger a full emergency response when a passenger train, bus or MetroAccess vehicle breaks down.

Wiedefeld said employees will develop a playbook on how to assure and monitor passengers during such delays. Safety officials will remind Metro staff of their duty to report “unusual occurrences” as well.

The standard for what is considered an emergency at Metro will be lowered too, Wiedefeld said. Any time a train or bus breaks down, emergency management staff must be notified.

A plan to improve the transit system’s entire emergency response program will be implemented by Metro Chief Safety Officer Teresa Impastato.

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