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52 IntroductIon This chapter summarizes key findings, presents conclusions from this synthesis project, and offers areas for future study. Findings identify and assess the factors contributing to the success. The chapter is organized in five sections: â¢ Findings from the survey and literature review; â¢ Agency assessments; â¢ Lessons learnedâsurvey respondents; â¢ Lessons learnedâcase examples; and â¢ Conclusions and areas for future study. The future study areas address the need for upgraded standards and dissemination, a culture of safety at transit agencies, continued research on rail vehicles and passenger rail tunnels, evaluation of next-generation systems as they are implemented, effective training, and gaps between National Fire Protection Associationâs (NFPA) NFPA 130: Standard for Fixed Guideway Transit and Passenger Rail Systems (2014), and the International Building Code (IBC). Two problem statements were submitted to TCRP for consideration as future studies. FIndIngs From the survey and LIterature revIew â¢ Sources of information. All respondents use NFPA 130, often in the design of transit facilities and as a best practices document. Respondents also use the National Incident Management System (NIMS), locally developed standards and guidelines, and/or the APTA Recommended Practice Report. â¢ Definitions. Agencies typically define âundergroundâ as âbelow gradeâ or âsubterranean.â Several agencies use a minimum length of tunnel (ranging from 150 to 1,000 ft) to define underground. Obvious signs of fire and/or smoke most often define a fire and smoke incident. â¢ Incidents and causes. Minor underground fire and smoke incidents are not uncommon, but major incidents (defined as causing a service disruption of at least 2 h) occur less often. Arcing and trash fires in tunnels were noted by more than half of all respondents as primary causes of underground fire and smoke incidents. â¢ Fire and smoke detection, prevention, protection, and ventilation systems. More than half of all respondents report that their agencies have an early underground fire detection system. Closed circuit television (CCTV), station smoke or heat detectors, and closed-head sprinklers (heat sensitive) in stations are the most common elements. More than two-thirds of respondents report that their agency has adopted design standards or codes related to underground fire and smoke prevention and detection. Several agencies have adopted NFPA standards as their own. Most respondents indicate that their agencyâs ventilation control system is designed to remove smoke and provide fresh air and/or cooling. Ventilation fans typically are controlled remotely. Almost all respondents report that their agency regularly tests fan operation. More than half of respondents test fan operation weekly or monthly. Agencies take several different approaches to changing protocols and procedures as new tech- niques and regulations emerge. Internal cross-departmental evaluations are common, including debriefings after an event. Respondents also use formal quantitative analyses. Regulatory com- pliance is essential, although older systems may be grandfathered. Legacy systems often meet chapter six concLusIons
53 new requirements by making needed changes during repairs. Respondents also pay close atten- tion to industry incidents and actions taken by other rail agencies. Capital improvements and the need to replace system components at the end of their useful life offer opportunities to retrofit the system. â¢ Managing incidents. Procedures for responding to and managing underground fire and smoke incidents typically involve internal and external notification, command structure, power shutoff, and evacuation. Nearly every agency uses the Incident Command System (ICS), a major compo- nent of NIMS, to establish a unified command structure at the scene. Most agencies are not aware of recent full-scale tests in which fire size was measured at 52 to 72 MW in existing vehicles (a fire roughly four times larger than most systems are designed to handle). Almost one-third of respon- dents indicated that their agency has made changes to its standard operating procedures (SOPs) for managing underground fire and smoke incidents within the past 2 years. Changes typically fell into one of three categories: enhanced clarity, improved training, or improved safety. Reasons for changes to SOPs included FTA safety advisories, NTSB and APTA publications, incidents at other transit agencies, installation of new controls, and changes to rail operation. â¢ Training. At least half of all respondents report the review of SOPs, hands-on training in the use of portable fire extinguishers, and knowledge of ICS as components of their training programs. On-site training in tunnels and coordination with first responders were cited as additional train- ing measures. Ongoing training with first responders from local jurisdictions typically takes the form of field and tabletop exercises. Among agencies serving multiple jurisdictions, annual training with each first-response team is the typical schedule although not always possible to achieve for agencies with large service areas. Survey responses indicate a high level of famil- iarity and comfort with NIMS among transit agency personnel who respond to fire and smoke incidents as well as among first responders. â¢ The literature review revealed that studies focusing on planning and design for fire and smoke incidents in rail tunnels make up a small subset of the literature on tunnel fires. The reluctance of passengers to initiate an evacuation, attributable in part to lack of clear information and the ambigu- ity of cues, is a major finding from behavioral studies. Recent studies suggest that the fire size for rail vehicle fires in tunnels may be much larger than most systems are designed to handle. agency assessments Survey respondents assessed their agencyâs planning for and management of fire and smoke inci- dents. Topics included challenges, next-generation tools, lessons learned that would be of interest to other transit agencies, and what an âidealâ fire prevention and response system might look like and how it would be different from the systems in use today. â¢ Intensity of the fire and difficulty in gaining access to the site were most often rated as a major challenge related to fire and smoke incidents. â¢ Incorporation of new technologies in legacy systems, ventilation issues, and cost/funding were the three answers mentioned most often in response to an open-ended question regarding the single biggest challenge faced by the transit agency. â¢ Transit agencies are exploring new technologies to prevent or minimize the impact of under- ground fires, although many prefer to rely on tried-and-true methods. Automated means of early detection, fire suppression, ventilation, and notification are among new technologies under consideration or being installed. â¢ Promising approaches undertaken or planned that would be of interest to other rail agencies for managing underground fire and smoke incidents include optimized ventilation systems, onboard fire suppression, and linear heat detection. â¢ Frequent emergency drills and strong working relationships with first responders were key les- sons learned that would be helpful for other transit agencies. Reviews of training exercises and incidents yield valuable lessons. â¢ Many respondents took a systemic approach to defining the âidealâ fire prevention and response system, emphasizing the various elements of the ideal system (detection, ventilation, notification, use of noncombustible materials, etc.) and the need for all elements to function as part of the overall system. Automation is part of the ideal system. Respondents emphasize the importance of
54 testing the entire system (not only its individual components) before acceptance and frequent emergency training exercises for agency staff and first responders. Lessons Learned and Keys to success From case exampLes Each case example illustrated certain themes running through the survey responses and literature review. These include: â¢ Emphasis on the basics. Regardless of technological improvements, actions such as ensur- ing a trash-free environment to reduce the presence of combustible material in tunnels are integral to a fire prevention strategy. Several case examples highlight the importance of basic prevention. â¢ The importance of safety, with safety being reinforced at every opportunity. â¢ Assessment of current conditions as the starting point. In legacy systems, rehabilitation of critical systems often is more feasible than installation of completely new systems. A thorough under- standing of what works well and what needs to be upgraded is an important first step. â¢ A means to determine the exact location of the fire and smoke incident. Knowledge of the exact location enables making a better decision about the appropriate action. â¢ Ventilation. A well-designed pushâpull ventilation system is essential for an effective response to a fire and smoke incident. If an evacuation is necessary, the ventilation system will clear a smoke-free path to the nearest exit. â¢ Buy-in from stakeholders. The operations department can be seen as the âcustomerâ of the safety department. Cooperation and buy-in are vital because operations personnel are the agencyâs front line in fire detection and initial response. First responders are also key stakeholders. â¢ Executive support. This is especially important when budgets are being developed. â¢ Subject matter experts in-house, either as agency employees or contractors. The transit agency needs its own expert assessment of proposed actions, particularly when large sums of money are involved. â¢ Testing of the entire integrated system. The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) case example is particularly instructive in the need to ensure that all components work together as planned. â¢ Ongoing testing and maintenance. The consensus of the case examples is that an agency can never have too much testing. â¢ Constant monitoring of tunnels. Some agencies do this remotely, whereas others rely on their train operators or on track walkers to look for anomalies. â¢ Frequent training, including joint exercises with first responders. The transit agency and first responders can learn from each other. A tracking system for first responders can record how much and what types of training each first responder has received. â¢ Communication with passengers. This is essential during smoke and fire incidents. The goal of communication is to put passengers at ease as much as possible or the train operator will lose control quickly, with passenger panic ensuing. For this reason, one agency reports that it stores a script in the operatorâs cab to be used in the event of emergency. â¢ Analysis of incidents to improve SOPs. Put simply, agencies need to learn from experience. gaps In InFormatIon A synthesis report describes the state of the practice, which includes gaps in information. In this synthesis, gaps are described in the following three areas: legacy systems, rail agency processes, and technical knowledge. Gaps in information for legacy systems include: â¢ Most effective practices in overcoming obstacles to incorporating new technologies in legacy systems. â¢ Actions taken if an agency cannot follow the standards in NFPA 130 (many respondents indi- cate that a request for a waiver is made). â¢ The role of natural ventilation in fire and smoke incidents (assuming there is no mechanical ventilation system).
55 Gaps in information for rail agency processes include: â¢ Most effective practices in development and dissemination of SOPs for agency personnel and first responders in the event of a fire and smoke incident. â¢ What do first responders need to know? There often is no training manual for first responders. â¢ Most effective practices in testing and maintenance of fire and smoke detection systems and individual components. â¢ Benefits and potential disadvantages of automated, integrated systems for detection, fire suppres- sion, optimized ventilation, and notification. Gaps in technical knowledge include: â¢ Most effective practices in passenger rail tunnel design and construction. â¢ The appropriate design fire level. concLusIons and areas oF Future study This synthesis offers the following conclusions related to the planning and design for dealing with fire and smoke incidents in underground passenger rail systems. â¢ A fire and smoke detection and response system combines integrated physical components and human interaction. The system is as strong as its weakest link because all parts of the system work together. â¢ Thorough assessment of the current state of the system is the first step. The rail agency needs to understand what works well, what needs to be improved, and which system components are nearing or at the end of their useful life. A thorough assessment will reveal gaps in the system and identify actions to be taken. â¢ Early detection of fire and smoke incidents is critical. Deployment of new technologies, includ- ing cameras, throughout the system helps to identify the exact location of the incident. â¢ Ventilation systems are an essential element of the response to fire and smoke incidents. A pushâpull system moves smoke away from the train and/or station platforms and clears a safe path of egress. One case example noted that although there is often an optimal direction for ventilation in a specific incident, blowing smoke away from passengers is more important than selecting the âbestâ direction. â¢ Agencies are moving toward integrated systems with automated means of early detection, fire suppression, ventilation, and notification of first responders. These integrated systems can choose the best response scenario based on the specifics of the fire and smoke incident. â¢ Attention to the basics is always important, even with automated systems. Minimizing the presence of combustible materials in the underground environment is effective in preventing or minimizing the extent of fires and smoke. â¢ Equipment tests are vital. Periodic tests of the entire detection and response system as well as each component can ensure that the system will work as designed in an emergency. â¢ Personnel training is equally vital. Frequent emergency drills involving agency personnel and first responders increase familiarity with SOPs and the rail system. Drills can also reveal where SOPs may need to be updated. â¢ Regular reviews of and upgrades to SOPs are necessary. New regulations and directives and after-incident reviews often trigger upgrades to SOPs. â¢ A clear chain of command at the incident site is vital. Most agencies use the NIMS ICS, which establishes an incident commander in charge of the scene and a clear organizational structure. â¢ Retrofit of legacy systems is a challenge on several levels. Availability of physical space, changed conditions at street level, nonstandard designs of stations and tunnels, and the need or desire to maintain daily operations are some of the difficult issues faced in legacy systems. Legacy systems often meet new requirements by making needed changes during major reha- bilitation projects undertaken for other purposes. Agencies will request waivers if a tunnel or station cannot be brought up to code. â¢ Communication with passengers is especially important during fire and smoke incidents. Informing passengers about the plan of action to get and keep them safely out of harmâs way
56 can put them at ease and prevent panic. Storing a script in the operatorâs cab to be read in the event of emergency is another example of attention to the basics. â¢ NFPA 130 continues to serve as the primary resource regarding standards and recommended practices. Many agencies have adopted NFPA 130 standards as their own. â¢ Results of recent full-scale tests of rail fires have not been widely disseminated. These tests suggest that fire size in existing vehicles may be much larger than most systems are designed to handle. â¢ The âidealâ fire detection and suppression system, as defined by survey respondents, incorpo- rates and automates detection, ventilation, and notification. A need for commonsense preventive measures, such as picking up trash, still exists. The NTSB Accident Report on the 2015 electrical arcing and smoke accident in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) system included recommendations applicable to all agencies (NTSB 2016). These recommendations are similar to the findings of the current synthesis in their emphasis on inspection, preventive maintenance, emergency egress, the NIMS ICS, tunnel ventilation systems, SOPs, ongoing training exercises, and NFPA 130. Findings from the current synthesis suggest six areas of future study: â¢ Quantification of appropriate standards for fire design of rail vehicles in light of the latest research and development of dissemination plans for informing transit agencies. Agencies pro- viding case examples noted that higher standards are at least being investigated, but there is lit- tle guidance on this issue. Transit agencies tend to rely on the most recent published documents, including NFPA 130, and most are unaware of new research. Existing mechanical ventilation systems may not work. There is a real need to validate recent studies and provide guidance to rail agencies. â¢ Safety culture in transit agencies. Although every transit agency lists safety as a primary goal, safety and operations departments may at times have different priorities that can conflict. Some agencies appear to have developed a harmonious relationship between the two departments, whereas others have not. How have successful agencies addressed conflicting priorities? Does the agencyâs âcultureâ have an effect, and if so, how can the culture be changed? Does the organi- zation of the agency affect its ability to promote coordination? â¢ Continued research focused on rail vehicles and passenger rail tunnels. TCRP recently released a request for proposals for TCRP C-23, Assessing and Mitigating Electrical Fires on Rail Vehi- cles, with a focus on arcing fire events and vehicles. There are other relevant studies that can advance the state of knowledge. â¢ Gaps between NFPA 130 and the IBC. The current synthesis has confirmed that rail transit agencies operating in underground tunnels in North America rely on NFPA 130 for standards and recommended practices. First responders who work for local governments are often more familiar with regulations established in the IBC, a model building code that has been adopted throughout the United States. NFPA 130 and IBC are not always in agreement. A research effort to undertake a close comparison between the provisions of these two standards, identify areas of conflict or nonagreement, and propose language to bridge the gaps would be extremely use- ful and would alleviate the potential for conflicts between rail transit agencies and first respond- ers. Many survey respondents in this synthesis noted that when local building codes differ from NFPA 130 standards, the rail agency adopts the more stringent standard. However, this is not a universal practice. â¢ Experience in implementation of next-generation automated systems. Automation in detection and activation offers the promise of eliminating human error by overtaxed operations center personnel, but how does this work in the real world of rail transit? Can the event be located pre- cisely? Can false alarms be recognized? How are vagaries in station or tunnel design addressed? Will the system always select a feasible scenario? Unexpected issues arise with the implementa- tion of any new technology; how can they be anticipated and/or resolved? What is the role for human intervention in an automated system? â¢ First responder training. Although several agencies reported the emergency responders who work with their agencies are familiar with the federally required NIMS and specifically the ICS, there were also reports of emergency responders not being aware of the potential fire size;
57 associated risks to emergency responders and the riders; how to ascertain if the tunnel systems (notably ventilation) were operating correctly; and most importantly methods for setting priori- ties that ensure rider safety in an incident. Professional emergency responders routinely receive training and respond to aboveground fires, mass casualty incidents, hazardous material inci- dents, and technical rescues and thus are proficient in such areas. This is not true in underground passenger rail emergencies, for which the frequency of large-scale incidents is rare, yet all of the previously mentioned types of incident can occur. Although there are emergency responder books, guidelines, and training for aboveground emergencies, there are no nationally recognized training guides or publications on underground passenger rail emergencies. Specific guidance on best practices for training and responding to these emergencies could be developed. The current 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 prob- lem statements were submitted to TCRP for potential funding: Operation of Underground Passenger Rail Ventilation Systems and Safety Culture in Transit Agencies.