Metro Drill Staged to Show Thai Visitors How Tunnel Emergencies are Handled in the U.S.

On February 1, 2004 at approximately 0845 hours a box alarm was dispatched to the Capitol Heights Metro Station for a train derailment with possible fire.

This simulation was set up by Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority and Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department in order to demonstrate how we handle subway incidents to government officials from Thailand.

Upon arrival, crews from Engine 5-1 and Rescue Squad 8 did reconnaissance on track number two of the Capitol Heights Metro Station. Command was set up and communication with Metro, OCC, and Prince George’s Fire Communications was established.

For this exercise power to the third rail was shut off, however, command went through the same procedures of verifying that information with OCC. Crews then climbed down into the track bed of the tunnel and attached several WSADs (Warning Strobe Alert Device) to the third rail. WSADs are attached to the third rail in order to alert crews to a third rail power activation. When power is activated, the unit will emit an alarm and a strobe on the unit will flash.

During, the reconnaissance, Metro Police advised that they had a train with two cars derailed and a small fire. They also communicated that there were ten passengers injured, two of them critically. Crews down in the tunnel confirmed conditions and proceeded to stretch hose lines as if they were knocking down the fire inside the tunnel. While part of the crew from Company 5 simulated the knock on the fire, others assessed patients on the train.

Rescue Squad 8 escorted walking wounded to the platform where Engine Company 38 had set up the EMS sector. Engine 22-2 and Truck 17 assisted with patient evacuation.

While crews operated in the Capitol Heights station, Engine 8-1 and Truck 26 had the Yost Place sector. Those units proceeded to the Yost Place fan shaft to assess the conditions and to gain control of the exhaust system. Yost Place units also used thermal imagers to check for walking wounded inside the tunnel.

Two critical patients were removed from the train on an ETEC (Emergency Tunnel Evacuation Cart) and pushed up the track to the platform where they were attended to by the EMS sector.

Units on the incidents included: Engines 51, 81, 381, 22 MSU 5, Trucks 17, 26, and Rescue Squad 8. Chief 5 had the command and Chief 5B was operations, and Chief 38A was Safety.

Fire Chief Ronald Blackwell and Major Denton Rourke of the Prince George’s Fire/EMS Department briefed the Thai visitors throughout the incident and fielded any questions that they had. The exercise concluded and units proceeded back to the platform with their equipment. All units cleared the scene at approximately 1130 hours.