Shaw Metro 8:50 am “Attention, there is an emergency in the metro station. Please evacuate the station immediately”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Rich Renomeron

“Dear PoPville,

I know it’s a little late to mention, but a funny thing happened on the metro this morning and I was wondering if you had heard of anything like it before. It was about 8:50 am in the Shaw metro station and all of a sudden the usual announcements stopped and there was another announcement, something along the lines of: “Attention, there is an emergency in the metro station. Please evacuate the station immediately”. The people I was sitting near and I all looked up at each other and then around, surprised. It was strange because half the people in the station didn’t even seem to hear it because they had headphones in or were on their phones. The train was coming in two minutes, and not one person actually headed for the escalators to leave (myself and the people around me included). We stood there looking around, waiting for another announcement or for the station manager to come say something, but nothing happened. They were even still letting people into the station. Following this, the train arrived and we got on the train and it went on its way as normal.

I’ve never had this happen before, and it was surprising in two ways: 1) Metro’s lack of follow-up after the announcement and 2) the fact that an announcement like that was so easily not heard or ignored by most in the station. Do you have any idea what could have caused this? The whole situation was definitely very uncomfortable.”

27 Comment

  • I’m pretty sure I heard this same message at the Columbia Heights metro station around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night. It was garbled, but it sounded like an emergency message and they were asking us to leave, but no one did anything and there was no follow-up message. There was obviously nothing going on in the metro station, since when you’re entering you can just about see all of it. I just got on the train and left as well.

  • I’ve been in DC for about 25 years. Never had that happen.
    Could it be a prank?

  • That’s kind of creepy and unsettling, but not that surprising given Metro’s overall inability to communicate with its costumers. It kind of reminds me of the time we were told to offload the train – by the conductor – due to an extreme emergency, only to be let back on the train a minute later as if nothing had happened.

  • Wow! Any comment from METRO?

    • I’m the one who wrote the email ^^. I tweeted about it shortly after it happened and I got a “We’re looking into it”. No follow-up though!

  • Could be a prank – you know the station managers leave the kiosks unattended all the time and maybe some kids, who lack the proper upbringing to make better decisions, got in there and used the intercom. As for the customer reaction it sounds like an example of the bystander effect — if a few people started running then more people probably would have reacted. You were all probably standing around waiting to see what each other would do, not waiting for another announcement.

    • Hey, I’m the one who wrote the email. The station manager was definitely in the booth when this happened and the announcement was very official, and also sounded pre-recorded

  • When I was at L’enfant Plaza this morning around 8:30am, I heard something about delays “due to an emergency” at a certain station that I didn’t catch. I just assumed it was the standard medical emergency/sick customer situation. I wonder whether they accidentally patched the emergency message through to the wrong station? Not sure how their PA system works.

  • Saw that on twitter this morning. @metrorailinfo responded to a tweet by saying that they were checking it out. Nothing further, though.
    I firmly believe that we, as riders, are on our own once we go down into a station. We cannot rely on Metro to keep us safe, or even communicate with us, in the event of an emergency.

  • Fact is – no govt./public service announcement is ever timely or reliable or helpful. Routine snarl or 9/11 catastrophe = expect/anticipate/plan to be on your own.

  • Please please please, when you hear an announcement like that, please leave. There could be something very serious that could cost you your life if you don’t evacuate. I am so saddened that Metro can’t get its act together enough that people would act on a message like that. But is it really worth your life to wait and see if its serious?
    I work in a building with some very serious chemicals and experiments happening all around us. there are a lot of false fire alarms, but I also know that when there is a real one, some very toxic gases will be released. I don’t want to be in the building to breathe them in.
    I know I sound like a nervous Nellie, but wouldn’t you rather be wrong and healthy than the alternative?

    • Also, if enough people “panic” by following instructions, then the news will get involved and perhaps shame metro into stepping up its act.

    • and nobody can be expected to respond. you only respond at your office because you KNOW there are real reasons to get out.

  • That’s terrifying.. Sorry, I would have bolted… I’m shocked no one freaked out. I would have thought bomb threat or something and high tailed it out of there to a bus stop… I hate to think we are so indifferent that if a real evacuation happens we are too busy checking Facebook listening to pandora in order to respond

    • its not because of facebook or pandora its because no one trusts metro.

      • ^This. DC has such sad, sad public services in general. No major American city does ineffectiveness/incompetence as well as DC.

  • I’m confused why this is an event about which you would complain about Metro. If you hear an announcement telling you to leave because of an emergency, I think that is sufficient information to act. If you choose not to, you do so at your own peril. I think the fact of an emergency means you don’t get an explanation, you react.

    • The reasons to write metro are 1) that there did not in fact seem to be any emergency, and 2) that after such an announcement metro made no further effort to evacuate people and no people evacuated.
      If this were a real emergency, then metro handled it extremely poorly and they should know. If there was no emergency and this was an accidental announcement, then they should know about it to prevent such false announcements from happening. Finally, they should know that such an announcement was utterly ineffective in starting an evacuation so that they can plan better.

  • So it’s really easy for everyone to say what they would do had they heard it, but you don’t really know what you would actually do — it’s not a very loud announcement, it’s not accompanied by any alarm bells, the station was relatively empty when I was there, and no one even that worked for metro was moving, either. When you hear it, it doesn’t even register as an emergency. I’m sure metro must have some kind of evacuation process in place; it just doesn’t do a good job of making customers aware of it.

  • I’d bet that this was someone tapped the wrong message and didn’t even notice.

    Welcome to WMATA.

  • My cousin was on the red line going to work yesterday and told me that the metro was delayed yesterday because someone had a seizure. Could be related.

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