Metro addresses safety concerns following Jan. 12 incident
Following the tragic Yellow Line accident on Jan. 12th, which trapped passengers on a smoke-filled subway train and left one woman dead, the Metro has begun to address safety concerns and spoke publicly on the cause of the incident.
The Washington Post reports that Metro officials have addressed the condition of the ventilation fans in the tunnels. The National Transportation Board has also affirmed that the ventilation fans “weren’t functioning as intended” after tests were performed shortly after the incident.
In order to ensure proper ventilation, Metro’s deputy general manager Rob Troup has started an immediate, full-scale investigation of all 200 fans and 81 ventilation shafts throughout the subway system.
Furthermore, federal investigators found severe electrical arcing damage to the rail and cables inside the tunnel, which is thought to be the cause of the smoke. Arcing occurs if a jumper cable has been damaged and electricity begins to escape. Some of the consequence of arcing can be the production of sparks, heat, melting, and smoke.
Depsite these findings, questions still remain about communication issues and why the passengers were stuck on the smoke-filled train for over thirty minutes.
During the time of the crisis, firefighters below ground were unable to effectively communicate by radio with commanders outside. Prior to the incident, the fire department had made changes to how its radios transmit, and on Jan. 7th they realized their radios were not working correctly inside L’Enfant Plaza station.
Radio engineers for the transit agency tried to determine the cause of the transmission problem over the weekend of Jan. 10 and 11 but were unsuccessful. The radio issue remained unresolved before Jan. 12, but has now been fixed.
The Yellow Line has since reopened after the incident, but some riders are still uneasy. Mortimer L. Downey, the incoming Metro board chairman, has publicly assured that the damaged segment of the Yellow Line has been repaired.
Metro officials have also produced 10 “early-action” safety steps created in collaboration with the NTSB team. Some of these steps include emergency procedures and training, inspections of equipment, and safety studies.
Photo: Howard Lifshitz via flickr