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  • Peer Review Reveals Massive Shortcomings In DC Metro Control Center

    A peer review released this week shows that workers at the DC Metro control center aren’t properly trained for smoke and fire incidents.

    According to the American Public Transportation Association report, the monitors who control trains running in the nation’s capital don’t know what to do if a smoke incident occurs like the one earlier this year that killed a woman, The Washington Post reports.

    The Rail Operations Control Center’s (ROCC) plan book outlines procedures to follow in the event of a fire or smoke incident, but the peer panel couldn’t find that information in any other training materials which would be more accessible to monitors.

    The panel said the staff in the ROCC was not ready to handle tunnel ventilation in smoke or fire incidents because the workers actually had to do something.

    “Ventilation is manually commanded, not automated, which may make rapid and correct response more difficult,” the report read.

    In January, a woman died after being trapped on a train in a smoke-filled tunnel for hours following an electrical problem that caused the rail to arc.

    The National Transportation Safety Board released a report following the incident that said incorrect operation of the ventilation fans caused the smoke to pour into the tunnel.

    The problem arose when workers in the ROCC set the ventilation fans to blow directly at each other, effectively keeping the smoke in the tunnel.

    Even if the tunnel clearing fans were operated properly, much of the infrastructure was built in the 1970s, and is no longer up to modern standards. The ventilation system was simply built to cool the tunnels in hot weather, not to deal with fires.

    There are a few things the agency can do, though, to make the aging system work to abate fires.

    If the fan blades were tweaked to a more aggressive angle, it would cause a higher air-flow intake rate and increase safety in the event of another smoke incident.

    Which would greatly help the beleaguered transit agency, because it sees a great deal of fires within the rail system, according to the Post. In 2014, Metro experienced almost six fires and almost three smoke incidents every month.

    An derailment caused by a lapse in safety protocols at Metro led it’s Chief Safety Officer, James Dougherty, to step down last week.

    Riders of the Metro are so fed up with the lack of safety at Metro that they started their own union to address their grievances.

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