WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) offered support today for several safety improvements announced by the National Capital Region’s Metro oversight board (WMATA) and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) in response to the fatal Jan. 12 incident at Metro’s L’Enfant Plaza station. Fire chiefs from the six Metro member jurisdictions announced plans today to comply with most of the concerns raised by Sen. Warner in a Jan. 22 letter about first responder radio compatibility across the Metro system.
“I am pleased that Metro has committed to systematically addressing radio interoperability issues in a more organized and transparent way,” Sen. Warner said. “Nearly 15 years after 9/11, and after spending millions of dollars on first responder radios and interoperability issues, commuters and visitors to the nation’s capital deserved a more regular, responsible focus in the testing and reporting of deficiencies in the radio systems. The commitments made today solidly move us in the right direction, but I will press to make sure Metro follows through on those obligations.”
According to the fire chiefs, all underground radio systems across the Metro system have been tested within the past 10 days, and any service gaps have been documented and reported. The fire chiefs committed to weekly testing of radio interoperability in the District, and bi-weekly in the other member jurisdictions, and agreed to launch a single online site where each fire department will record and report on the results of these radio checks. Additionally, Metro has committed to have personnel on the ground to investigate system deficiencies within 24 hours, and “conceptually agreed” to make needed radio repairs within 48 hours.
In addition, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today issued a number of “urgent” recommendations to WMATA, the Federal Transit Administration and the American Public Transportation Association calling for improved ventilation procedures during smoke and fire events in Metro tunnels and transit systems nationwide.
“I strongly urge Metro to move immediately to implement the NTSB ventilation recommendations in order to prevent another dangerous smoke event,” added Sen. Warner.
On Jan. 22, following a congressional briefing by WMATA executives and NTSB officials investigating the fatal smoke incident onboard a Metro train at L’Enfant station, Sen. Warner wrote to COG and WMATA, asking the regional oversight boards to work together to design a more robust and transparent process for ensuring the interoperability of radio networks used by the region’s emergency responders. In response to Warner’s request, COG and WMATA pledged to implement a system for testing of Metro and regional emergency radio systems in order to address the breakdown in communications that was identified following the fatal incident at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station on Jan. 12.