Yes, electricity can kill you. No, it doesn't care who you are or how much experience you have.

Pepco paid us a visit Monday, and brought along a setup that allowed us to observe what can and cannot conduct electricity (and thus severly injure us, should we be stupid enough to try and move downed power lines with any tools we have). The basic lesson: everything can conduct electricity, from a tree branch to a hotdog. Case in point:



Somewhere in Maryland, there lies a Washington Metropolitan and Transit Authority (WMATA) training facility. Today's mission was learning how to deal with Metrorail incidents; with the rail system being as ubiquitous as it is within the District of Columbia, it's just another place for people to have emergencies we respond to. The best part? These are incidents that take place hundreds of feet underground.


The facility itself is huge (an old warehouse, according to the WMATA instructor) that has numerous rail cars for training purposes. Not surprisingly, dealing with Metro incidents are an entirely different animal. Resources we use (tools, supply cabinets, etc.) are in different places at each station; the joke today was that the only consistent thing about Metro was its inconsistency. 

Nevertheless, the action of turning off the "third rail" so that we can work safely is paramount. The names and locations of switches and call boxes and rail sensor circuits were rattled off so fast we could barely keep up—only my notes kept it all in order. I have several pictures (less artsy and more instructional), with which I think I'll be putting together a small info packet so I can review the Metro stuff later on. 

(I never know what my first due area will contain, so I just take notes on everything. It's served me quite well throughout the Academy.)

One of the more exciting trainers was an old rail car that could be rotated to any position within a full 360ş. Interestingly enough, when they filled it with smoke for us to climb through, we found it easier to keep our equilibrium; being able to see how skewed our environment was made a few of us a bit motion sick.



Our training today notwithstanding, I'm sure we haven't learned even half of what there is to know regarding Metro incidents. However, I was pleased to learn all sorts of stuff about the Metro system and elevators/escalators that I never knew before—it sounds kinda dorky, but it's pretty cool to know what's in all the rooms and cabinets that I never gave a second glance to until today. Standpipes, evacuation carts, supply kits on board the train… there's a lot more to the system than most oblivious commuters realize. 

Gotta love this job; it's teaching me so much useful stuff!

If you ever want to piss off a bunch of hurried commuter-folk, just shut off a packed escalator in the middle of rush hour. The craziest part: you can do it while you're packed in the escalator with almost no effort. 

(I don't
think I'll be sharing that openly. There's enough trouble around this city, and I don't want to put myself in the middle of it. It's a damned funny thought, though.)

1 Comment

  • Ray says:

    Fascinating! 1) Things that arc and spark; and 2) a flippable Metro car! (So that’s how they make those Bruce Willis movies :)

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Alex Capece

Washington, D.C. Firefighter and Paramedic

FE Talk: Humpday Hangout

Mrs. McRae
Farewell, brother.
This is so beautifully written. I'm sure my husband is very proud of you and he will continue to watch over you!
2015-07-06 14:18:06
Farewell, brother. | Raising Ladders
Two tours, one fire.
[…] never forget 1212 Eaton Road. It was my first fire when I was actually assigned to Engine 15, and my first fire with Lt. […]
2015-06-04 16:20:37
Farewell, brother.
Perfect! This made me smile. What an amazing person he was, and that I will miss forever. He will always hold a special place in my heart.
2015-06-01 00:46:56
Pete Lamb
Farewell, brother.
Very nicely done RFB
2015-05-28 11:17:01
Farewell, brother.
Beautifully written. RIP Lt. McRae.
2015-05-28 03:33:20

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"For anyone who ever wanted to grow up and become a firefighter... from someone who did just that."
April 2009
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