Metro Focuses on Response and Recover from Chemical, Biological Attack

If a chemical or biological attack is made in a Metrorail station of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, what will it take for the transit agency to coordinate the regional response and to decontaminate the station and reopen?

Metro wants to know, so it is partnering with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to evaluate response and recovery efforts if such an attack occurs.

The team of experts from the national laboratory began to work with Metro's police, safety and emergency operations officials this month to begin development of a plan that will identify and clarify roles and responsibilities for agencies at the federal and regional level as they respond to a possible chemical or biological release within the transit system. An examination of outstanding issues for implementing a decontamination and cleanup effort needed to restore rail service will also be explored through the 6-month project, which is funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate.

"This project represents another milestone in our ongoing collaborative relationship with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal partners to advance real critical homeland security issues," said Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson. "We need to ensure that the response would be well coordinated with our regional partners and know what it will take to decontaminate and reopen as quickly as possible."

Work on the plan builds upon the existing partnership that Metro forged with the National Laboratories more than 5 years ago on the development and implementation of the subway system's chemical detection system, known as PROTECT. It represents the first project that DHS and the National Labs are taking on that focuses on response and restoration of transit service for a specific transit property after a chemical or biological attack.

"It is a natural extension of the work we have done together to put the PROTECT system in place," Hanson said.

"There is an urgent need to address decontamination procedures associated with transit systems," said Fred Goodine, Metro's assistant general manager for System Safety and Risk Protection. "This partnership and specifically this project is a sound first step in addressing the need for decontamination planning and is likely to have applications to other transportation sectors in the future."

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