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Emergency Preparedness

This subprogram research area is directed at the safe and efficient passenger rail car evacuations during various emergency scenarios. A goal is to determine, if time-based evacuation criteria can replace existing prescriptive rules on the number and configuration of emergency exits. Studies will involve, as appropriate, emergency plans and procedures, training, emergency exits and access points, signs and instructions, and emergency lighting. The main objectives are the identification, testing and analysis of new technology; the development of objective and cost-effective minimum performance criteria for emergency lighting levels, as well as conspicuity/visibility criteria for emergency exit and access signs.

Other objectives include improving the ability of passengers and crew members to easily identify their current location in a car and decide whether it is safer to remain inside the until help arrives, move into the adjacent car, or egress the car onto the right-of-way of the railroad. Emergency responders must be able to quickly gain entrance onto a passenger car to assist the injured.

In past research, FRA, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), conducted a series of commuter rail car egress tests in 2005 at North Station, Boston, MA. To FRA knowledge, this is the first time that egress trials were conducted using U.S. rail cars and passenger recruited from the general ridership. Human factors data related to the length of time necessary for passengers to exit a coach car to an adjacent car or to the station platform using one or two doors, under both normal and emergency lighting conditions was obtained. The exit time data are intended to be used as an input to the planned adaptation of an existing transportation computer egress model in order to predict emergency evacuation time. The objective of the egress model for rail car evacuation time prediction is to save time and money, as well as eliminate or minimize safety and health issues when compared to the logistics of using human test subjects to determine the minimum required.

This emergency preparedness research program helps define reasonable means of accomplishing these goals as well as improves egress/response times.

Current Projects

Emergency Response

This study will review the training protocols used for the “Roll-over Rig,” as well as emergency responder to assess changes in response times with different ambient conditions in the passenger rail car. This information will provide input data for use in the egress/response computer model to evaluate the effectiveness of different design changes in egress times.

Wireless Passenger Communication System

The main goal of this research effort was to review the design requirements of a back-up communication system. In the event of a break in the communication trainline network, this back-up system would enable the crew the ability to communicate with the passenger via a wireless PA system. This system will also be available to emergency responders for utilization.

Emergency Evacuation

This program will develop information to support rulemaking provisions addressing the safe, timely, and effective emergency evacuation of intercity and commuter rail passengers in various emergency scenarios.

Quick-release Emergency Egress in Cab Car End Door Panel

The main focus is to develop an egress panel that will be robust enough to withstand intrusions into the cab car but will be easy to activate in an emergency situation. Such an egress would allow for the easy evacuation of the passengers in the event of a rollover, or if the other egresses in the railcar are inoperable due to damages or obstruction.

Completed Projects: