Six months after a fatal smoke incident that left one person dead and dozens injured, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority today announced a new hire within its Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC)—effectively the Metro’s traffic-control system—to bolster emergency responses.

The fire/rescue liaison position provides WMATA with a fire officer to coordinate the flow of information during emergencies and administer extra emergency training for ROCC staff for 40 hours a week. There was no such position on January 12, when electrical equipment malfunctioned and filled a Yellow Line train with billows of smoke near L’Enfant Plaza station. D.C.’s fire department and Metro quarreled over which agency was primarily responsible for communications failures during the incident response. According to a WMATA press release, the fire liaison was hired July 1 as part of an agreement with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Fire Chiefs Committee.

“The fire/rescue liaison position in the ROCC has already provided crucial support to WMATA and Fire Department incident commanders,” said Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor, who chairs the committee. “In the first couple of days, the liaison provided support for more than two dozen fire- and EMS-related incidents affecting multiple jurisdictions’ 911 centers and emergency response operations.”

Since the January fatality, Metro has come under fire for significant management flaws, including in a 116-page Federal Transit Administration report released last month. At the time, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said Metro’s safety program was “inadequate.” And just last week, Foxx met behind closed doors with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the governors of Maryland and Virginia, Larry Hogan and Terry McAuliffe, to discuss Metro’s safety, financial, and oversight issues. “We’re all three on the same page,” Hogan told WTOP. Although the specific details of the meeting were scant, the region’s highest officials reportedly discussed hiring a new general manager for WMATA. (There hasn’t been one since January: Richard Sarles, the last general manager, announced his departure from Metro 10 months ago.)

“The new fire/rescue liaison at the Rail Operations Control Center gives first responders ‘eyes and ears’ on Metrorail operations and will serve to further strengthen the coordination between our operations staff and emergency personnel,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery