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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Planning and Design for Fire and Smoke Incidents in Underground Passenger Rail Systems. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24691.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Planning and Design for Fire and Smoke Incidents in Underground Passenger Rail Systems. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24691.
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SUMMARY Fire and smoke incidents in passenger rail tunnels are not like incidents elsewhere because of the confined environment of tunnels and the potential presence of large numbers of passengers inside rail vehicles. In the past decade, many research studies have addressed fire and smoke incidents in road tunnels but did not include the implementation of National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 130 and other recent developments because NFPA 130 is specific to passenger rail systems. Underground fires in passenger rail tunnels require implementation of different measures to provide safety for the passengers and assure structural and system integrity of the facilities and operating infrastructure. The purposes of this synthesis are to explore these issues; document effective practices in the planning, design, and operations for response to fire and smoke incidents in underground passenger rail systems; and identify gaps in knowledge. What are the challenges faced by rail agencies in designing or upgrading protocols or systems for fire and smoke detection and incident management, and what lessons have transit agencies learned in addressing these challenges? The study identifies effective strategies and solutions to achieve agency goals. Results of a survey of North American rail transit agencies that operate in tunnels document the current state of the practice of planning and design for fire and smoke incidents in underground passenger rail systems. Twenty-five completed surveys were received from the 30 rail transit agencies in the sample, a response rate of 83%. In addition, three partially completed surveys were received, and responses from those are included in this analysis. Survey results include transit agency assess- ments of the challenges in planning and design for response to underground fire and smoke incidents, lessons learned, new technologies, promising approaches, and what an “ideal” fire prevention and response system might look like. Case examples provide additional details on procedures, evacuation (not fully addressed in the survey), challenges, lessons learned, and what agencies perceive as keys to success. Selection of case examples sought agencies that (1) adopted innovative approaches or faced significant challenges and (2) provided detailed survey responses and relevant observations, with a balance of agencies by size and location. Six agencies were selected as case examples: • Atlanta, Georgia: Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority • Boston, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority • Cleveland, Ohio: Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority • Jersey City, New Jersey: Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation • Seattle, Washington: Sound Transit • Washington, D.C.: Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, Metro). This study’s findings address prevention, procedures, training, communication, response, chal- lenges, and trends and include the following key points: • An understanding of the combination of physical elements and human interaction in responding to fire and smoke incidents; • Thorough assessments of the current state of the detection/response system as a starting point; • The central role of the ventilation system; PlAnning And deSign foR fiRe And SMoke incidentS in UndeRgRoUnd PASSengeR RAil SYSteMS

2 • Testing system components individually and together; • Ongoing training through emergency drills with first responders; • Use of the Incident Command System (ICS) to establish a clear chain of command; • Use of standard operating procedures (SOPs) in ongoing training and during incidents; • Updates to SOPs; • Basic preventive measures, such as removing and minimizing the presence of combustible materials, monitoring tunnels, and training agency personnel and first responders; • The difficulty of retrofitting legacy systems to meet current standards because of physical or fiscal restrictions; • Use of major rehabilitation projects undertaken for other purposes to make needed safety changes; • The importance of early detection and precise location of incidents; • A move toward automated and integrated systems coupled with the continuing need for attention to the basics; • The value of early and clear communication with passengers during fire and smoke incidents; and • A concern that recent full-scale tests of rail vehicle fires indicate that the fire size may be much larger than most systems are designed to address. During the course of conducting this synthesis, the NTSB released a synopsis of its report on the 2015 WMATA electrical arcing and smoke accident. The NTSB recommendations are similar to the findings in this synthesis in their emphasis on inspection, preventive maintenance, emergency egress, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) ICS, tunnel ventilation systems, SOPs, and ongoing training exercises, and NFPA 130. NTSB recommendations that apply to all rail transit agencies are noted in chapter six of this synthesis. Survey responses to a question about what the “ideal” fire detection and suppression system would look like and how it would differ from those available today describe a system that incorporates auto- mated detection, ventilation, and notification. Even with the “ideal” system, basic approaches, such as minimizing the presence of combustible material, are crucial components of an agency’s strategy. Routine maintenance, SOPs, and ongoing training on these procedures can prevent fires and ensure a coordinated response to fire and smoke incidents. All agencies use NFPA 130, and most are familiar with NIMS and conduct regular training and inspections. The study identified several research needs and prepared four research needs statements to address identified gaps and encourage research in areas of future study. After deliberation, two problem statements were submitted to TCRP for potential funding: Operation of Underground Passenger Rail Ventilation Systems and Safety Culture in Transit Agencies.

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 124: Planning and Design for Fire and Smoke Incidents in Underground Passenger Rail Systems documents the state-of-the-practice to address fire and smoke incidents. Fires in underground passenger rail tunnels require implementation of different measures in order to provide safety for the passengers and ensure structural and system integrity of the facilities and operating infrastructure. The publication addresses planning, design, and operations to address fire and smoke incidents, and identifies current practices including lessons learned, challenges, and gaps in information.

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