NCDP Perspectives

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DC’s Metro Calamity: A Lesson in Preparation and Response


Earlier this year, members of Congress voiced their frustration during a recent House Oversight Committee hearing, blasting the subway system of our nation’s capital for an event deemed “entirely predictable” and a major sign of “weakness.” What were they referring to? On Jan. 12, smoke filled the DC Metro tracks, stranding passengers, sending dozens to the hospital and killing Carol Glover, a 61-year-old mother and grandmother. DC Metro’s biggest disaster since a 2009 collision that left nine dead, revelations about the minute-by-minute handling of the incident by first responders have raised serious questions about DC’s ability to respond to an even greater, more catastrophic event. What started this unfortunate chain of events? A tripped electrical breaker created smoke that engulfed the tunnel near DC Metro’s L’Enfant Plaza, causing a six-car train that had just departed the station to abruptly stop on the tracks. Its passengers were left stranded on a stalled train, in the middle of a tunnel, receiving mixed messages from the conductor and with little information on what

March 18, 2015