The New Jersey Transit train crash last month at Hoboken station was a chilling reminder of what can happen on our daily commutes. If you were on a train involved in an accident, would you know what to do and how to get to safety? Here’s a review of commuter train safety tips for passengers, especially in an emergency situation, courtesy of the MTA Metro-North Railroad. Many of them are common sense, but they bear repeating.
General safety reminders
Step back from platform edges, and concentrate when stepping on or off the train. Be sure to step over the gap between the train and platform. Use the stair handrails, especially after rain or snow, when steps and platforms can become wet and slippery. When standing on a moving train, hold on to bars or handholds. Also, always use the overpass/underpass/designated walkway to get from your station parking lot to the platform, and vice versa.
Another thing to keep in mind: if you see something, say something! Reporting anything out of the ordinary to a police officer or train crew member could save many lives.
In case of emergency
Evacuations don’t happen often on trains, and are usually related to a passenger’s medical condition. Should an emergency situation occur, the most important thing is to remain calm, think clearly, and follow the instructions of the train crew.
Know the signage
- Familiarize yourself with safety signage. Whenever riding on a train, take time to read emergency signs and locate emergency doors and windows in the train car, so you will know how to locate and operate emergency exits.
- Don’t leave the train on your own. In many cases, leaving the train car is most dangerous thing you can do in an emergency. Tracks may still be electrified; other trains may still be in motion around you.
If you can’t stay in the car you are on, walk calmly to another car that is unaffected by the emergency. Listen for instructions or help from the train crew.
- Report the emergency to a train crew member. If there is an emergency, or you see something out of the ordinary, report it immediately to a train crew member.
The sooner the crew knows about an emergency, the sooner they can act to bring the situation under control. On newer cars, two-way intercom systems are located near the doors.
- Follow safety instructions from the crew. If an emergency occurs, it is important that you follow the instructions of the train crew, as well as the instructions of rescue, fire, or police on the scene.
Stay calm and remain seated and wait for the train crew to inform you about the emergency either in person or through the train’s public address system. In most instances, all you need to do to be safe is to move to another car on the same train. If an evacuation is necessary, crew members will help you exit quickly and safely.
If evacuation is necessary
In most train evacuation situations, emergencies can be managed without taking customers off of a train. If a full train evacuation is necessary, crew members will provide specific instructions.
If possible, a “rescue train” will pull alongside the disabled train, and an evacuation board is placed at the exit doors to serve as a walkway between the two trains. On very rare occasions, you may be evacuated to track level with evacuation ladders that are stored on every car. If you are in a wheelchair, you might be evacuated by stretcher, with your wheelchair removed separately and returned to you as soon as possible.
If you are directed to evacuate to the track level, it is very important to follow the train crew’s directions carefully, watch your step and stay away from the third rail or any downed wires that may be on the ground.
Leaving through emergency exits
All Metro-North train cars have emergency door opening panels and emergency exit windows. Again, before an emergency takes place, look for the emergency information posted on each car and become familiar with the location and operation of emergency exits on the various train cars you ride in.
In an emergency, use the exit doors to exit the train car. They can be opened by following the instructions on the Emergency Exit panel located in the vestibule area of the car. The panel is clearly labeled with an instructional sticker on how to open it.
Once the panel is open, slide the red lever to open the doors. On some cars, the narrow windows in the vestibule doors can be kicked out. If you cannot exit through the doors, you may have to use the emergency exit windows. Each emergency exit window is clearly marked by an instructional sticker on or above the window, and the sticker will glow in the dark.
Emergency Brake Systems
In extreme cases, you may consider pulling the emergency brake. Use the emergency brake only when the forward motion of the train presents an imminent danger to passengers. Don’t activate it unless necessary, especially in a tunnel. Once the emergency brake is pulled, the brakes have to be reset before the train can move again, which reduces the options for dealing with the emergency.