- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Metro officials yesterday said the transit agency has revised procedures to deal with biochemical weapons attacks on its subway system so that, if an unknown substance is found, trains will be stopped at the next station, cleared of passengers and taken to the nearest maintenance yard.
The new interim policies apparently stem from criticism of Metro's handling of an Oct. 9 incident in which an armed man sprayed an unknown substance inside a subway train on the Green Line after stopping at the Southern Avenue station. The train, whose cars were sealed, moved on to other stations with passengers on board.
Kenneth Ranger Jr., 23, faces attempted murder charges, among others, from that incident.
The substance was later deemed harmless, but because of the heightened state of alert since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the incident increased scrutiny of Metro handling of the biochemical attacks.
Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said that the new standard operating procedures could change, and that the new guidelines emerged from an Oct. 12 review of procedures by Metro and regional fire officials.
"We identified some areas where we believe we can improve our response to suspected or confirmed hazardous materials incidents in the future, should they occur," James Gallagher, Metro's deputy general manager for operations, said in a statement.
Mr. Gallagher said the procedure modifications "are not sweeping, major changes, but simply some improvements that will help our front-line operating personnel do a better job."
Changes include stopping trains at the next closest station, offloading all passengers and shutting down the station's ventilation system when an unknown substance is found on a subway train. If the train is underground and the substance is believed to be hazardous, the station also will be evacuated and hazardous materials teams will inspect the train and substance.
If a suspicious substance is discovered on a Metro station's platform, service will be discontinued and trains will pass by it. If the substance is on the mezzanine level, the entire station will be closed.
Metro safety chief Fred Goodine said the transit agency is trying to strike the right balance between safety and convenience.
"Safety concerns always take precedent over anything else," Mr. Goodine said in a statement. "At the same time, we must act responsibly and always be cognizant of how the actions we take will impact our system and our customers."

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