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Rail News: Passenger Rail

'Survive-Alive' tunnel set to open in D.C.

Fast access to medical care often is the difference between life and death. But getting care to injured passengers in a subway tunnel can be delayed for no other reason than lack of experience in negotiating the environment, so many transit agencies provide training for local emergency responders. Now, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is upping the safety-preparedness ante.

WMATA officials plan May 10 to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening its Emergency Response Safety Training Facility, which will be available 24/7 for fire, medical and police personnel use.

The 260-foot-long building in Landover, Md., formerly was used as a factory. When WMATA purchased it, Chief Safety Officer Fred Goodine requested a section of the building where a freight railroad used to enter be renovated so that it could be used to train first-responders. $700 million later, the tunnel simulator is ready to go.

"It looks like a real tunnel you’d find in the Metro system," says WMATA spokesman Steven Taubenkibel.

Right down to theatrical lighting, and simulated smoke and flames.

Two 75-foot-long cars reside on track in the tunnel — complete with a simulated third rail, cabling and a blue-light box with a phone that’s connected to a faux operations command center. The phone will be manned during drills to further simulate actual conditions. On-site training rooms also are available for trainers to map out the situation for trainees.

Although no drills currently are scheduled, the facility’s available free of charge to any first-responders who’ve requested training in tunnel rescues.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/23/2002