This is only a drill!

Not the clearest picture, but this was the scene during the simulated emergency on Tuesday night. Capital Metro is required by the FRA to conduct an emergency drill at least every two years.

It sounds like the beginning of a formula cop drama on prime-time TV: the phones at the emergency call center start ringing like crazy. “We’ve crashed, we’ve crashed! There’s people hurt, we’re on the train! I don’t know where we are!”

Fortunately, when emergency dispatchers started receiving the calls Tuesday night, it was only a simulated emergency, a drill, to test Capital Metro’s and area first responders’ preparedness in the event of an actual emergency involving a MetroRail train.


Round Rock Fire Department was one of the six jurisdictions participating in the drill. Part of the test was the effectiveness of communication and coordination between different units.

Interim Manager of Security John Jones, a retired sergeant with the Austin Police Department, had meticulously planned the drill with first responders from about six jurisdictions, as well as two federal agencies, Homeland Security and the Federal Railroad Administration, over the past several months.

Twenty-one Capital Metro staff and some community volunteers (including MetroAmbassadors) served as mock passengers and victims, some with pre-determined injuries.

The gist of the drill for the responders was to locate the train (the mock accident occurred at night, in a remote section of track), establish the coordination of resources (who’s in charge?), and then mobilize the equipment needed to access the train and the passengers inside. Finally, of course, the responders would need to evacuate and treat the “victims”.

So what did we learn?


First responders practice the evacuation of "injured" passengers. The feet poking out there belong to volunteer and Capital Metro staffer Jean Burnett.

We’ll be able to answer the question in detail after the comprehensive debrief, during which all of the participants discuss what worked, and what didn’t, but Sgt. Jones’ initial summary goes like this: “We can have a high degree of confidence in our area first responders.”

The first responders seemed incredibly proficient and professional in working the scene. They did central Texas proud! I think we have to give some props to Sgt. Jones’ work, too, because creating a very realistic and well-thought out scenario provides a much more valuable experience for the emergency personnel who are participating.

I was a spectator during the event, and the experience did make me quite grateful for the exemplary safety record of our MetroRail provider, Herzog Transit Services, and all of our safety and security personnel here at Capital Metro. We are in good hands!

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