MBTA launches $9m disaster-training site

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September 17, 2012, 7:25 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - For years, whenever the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has wanted to stage large-scale training exercises for police, fire, and emergency personnel, officials have had to commandeer a station – typically the Blue Line Bowdoin terminal on weekend days when it’s closed.

By next spring, though, thanks to a $9 million grant from U.S. taxpayers through the Department of Homeland Security, the T will have the equivalent of a T station where it can run practice response drills any day of the week – because luckily the system happened to have an extra tunnel and station that have been gathering dust since 1919. The location is inside a former Dorchester Avenue streetcar line tunnel one level up from the Red Line Broadway station in South Boston.

Workers have begun the process of moving down into the station two Blue Line subway cars, a Green Line trolley, and an abandoned bus, so that police, firefighters, and emergency workers will be able to practice responding to disasters involving every major type of vehicle on the system –- planning for events everyone, especially the 1.3 million people who ride the system each day, hope will never happen.

“What we'd be drilling for is in event of a fire on the system, in the event of a derailment, in the event that we have to evacuate trains,’’ MBTA acting general manager Jonathan Davis said. The fake station is being outfitted with platforms and live lower-voltage versions of third rails and catenary wires so firefighters learn how to test to see if a T power line is live. “We want to make sure our employees and the first responders are well trained to make sure that our customers remain safe and our employees remain safe,’’ Davis said.

T Police chief Paul MacMillan said the new South Boston facility, off Foundry Street near the Gillette World Shaving Headquarters factory, will allow much better, much more frequent training exercises for Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville police fire and EMS and MBTA Transit Police. “Currently, we cannot perform drills and exercises without shutting down the MBTA for a portion of time,’’ MacMillan said, “and generally we do that on Sunday mornings when it's least inconvenient for our passengers and our customers. This will allow us to conduct drills, exercises, throughout the week with all first responders.’’

With videographer Cameron T. Robbins

Tags: Boston, mbta, South Boston, Dorchester, Red Line, the T, Broadway Station, U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security
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