Starting next month, Metro’s rail operations control center—the central communication hub for the rail system—will have a uniformed fire officer on duty at all hours to help coordinate emergency responses, the transit agency announced on Monday.

Though ROOC has had fire liaisons on duty for 80 hours a week since last year, the new, constant presence will ensure fuller safety coverage of the rail system, officials said. The announcement comes one day before the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to release its final report on the Jan. 12, 2015 fatal smoke incident at L’Enfant Plaza, in which—investigators found—ROCC failed to communicate effectively and incorrectly operated exhaust fans. (Metro has since instituted extra training.)

Marc Bashoor, chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Fire Chiefs Committee, said in a statement that embedding a fire liaison at the Landover, Md. facility “has dramatically improved the level of coordination between Metro and the region’s emergency responders.”

MWCOG and Metro signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to the expanded hours. A release notes that “in addition to coordinating emergency response, the fire liaisons will continue to develop policy recommendations and provide supplemental emergency training for rail controllers.”

WAMU today reported that the NTSB will issue rail safety recommendations to at least half a dozen government agencies on Tuesday.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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