A Metro Emergency

23 09 2010

Yesterday I experienced what it would be like to be in the Metro Rail System during an emergency. I can’t exactly tell you what kind of emergency or the severity of the emergency however, because the Metro likes to be secretive (see: uninformative).

Anyways, last night around 8pm, I exited the Metro at Friendship Heights at the Jennifer Street side. Normally, I leave via the other end at the Western Street side, but I was going shopping last night for a Halloween costume and decided to switch it around (what a jinx). Anyways, something to know about the Jennifer Street exit is that the only way to get to the street level is one of three (or two, since one is always broken) elevators.

So there was a group of ten of us, waiting for an elevator. It was taking its sweet time arriving, to the point where the elevators never came. While we waited, an announcement came on throughout the station. Apparently there was an emergency and we had to immediately leave the station. We didn’t know what the emergency was, but we were ready to leave anyways. -Except we had no way out, with the elevators not working. True, we could have gone back through the turnstiles to the other end of the station for the other exit, but that would have charged our card (dumb). Anyways, the announcement was repeating and we had no way out.

A couple people had seen the door marked, “Emergency Exit” and apparently thinking appropriately, started to go through. Expectedly, opening the door, sounded an alarm. Someone in the group had commented about how he once had to use the emergency exit and that it was a tedious 10 flights of stairs up to the street. I was really hoping an elevator would come so as not to climb those 10 flights. However, you’re not really supposed to use an elevator in the case of emergency, but it seemed more appealing. So a Metro worker came over when he heard the alarm and told the people who had gone through that they were not allowed. Um, hello! Do you hear the announcement? It is an EMERGENCY, so wouldn’t one think the EMERGENCY exit would be appropriate to use? Apparently not. The Metro employee proceeds to walk away.

Now at this point, it’s been something like 5 minutes of us standing around totally clueless as to what to do. We have not been informed of the nature of this emergency. For all we knew it was something that could be potentially dangerous to us any moment like a bomb, or it could have been a person who had fallen on the tracks, which would not put us in any harm. So, without any information or a way out, a handful of us started for the emergency exit, nonetheless. It was our only hope.

So I started up the stairs, not knowing what I was getting myself into. I guess we take escalators for granted, because walking up 10 flights of stairs was really tiring. Plus, it’s one thing to walk up a straight escalator, but this stairwell was square in shape so there was the additional walking on landings and turning.

I was walking behind a woman who was having some noticeable trouble keeping her breath. I thought about the situation. If something were to happen to one of us climbing the stairs, we couldn’t easily get help. Underground, we had no cell phone signal, and it wasn’t like a Metro employee was escorting us (not sure that would be helpful, though). I offered to help the woman, and although she told me that wouldn’t be necessary, I still made sure she made it out ok.

The creepy emergency exit stairwell.

When I finally made it to the street, calves burning, knees weak, I was expecting to see throngs of emergency vehicles, but instead I saw nothing. It was an ordinary evening in Friendship Heights and any Metro emergency was unapparent. I saw some lightning in the sky, and thought that maybe it had caused some electrical malfunction down below, but that was just speculation.

I thought there would be something about what had happened in today’s newspaper, or maybe if I was lucky, Metro’s website, but alas, there was no mention of it anywhere. I guess I was being too hopeful that the Metro would inform its customers of something that had gone wrong.

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3 responses

24 09 2010
Phil

Was the announcement actually playing when the employee came by and they still didnt say anything about it?? Crazy!
Let Metro know ~ http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/contact_us/ridercomment.cfm

24 09 2010
Dazey2

Yup. The announcement was definitely on when the employee was present. Thanks for the link!

30 12 2010
Favorite Posts of 2010: Part 3 « C.A.P.S.love.

[…] month I also got the unfortunate opportunity to explore the inner workings of a DC Public Transportation system, or at least part of it. This was a pretty awful experience […]

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