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Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also known as the Metro in the DC and surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia, provides transit services including Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess. WMATA Office of Emergency Management launched a series of eLearning courses to train WMATA staff and first responders on Metrorail emergency response best practices and procedures. Courses range from severe weather planning to operational procedures to training firefighters the intricacies of response for rescuing passengers within the MetroRail network.


Although some of the curriculum had older, previously developed material, most was brand new. This new curriculum needed to be created from recent findings in the field and careful collaboration with subject matter experts.

Three courses were developed with video as an integral part of the training. This required careful coordination with WMATA to provide the right railcars at the rail yard and local fire departments to be the key actors in the training videos.

Safety was also a challenge. Due to the presence of live track on site, entire production team and subject matter experts required safety training to pass a safety exam prior to entering the rail yard.

Project Approach and Results

In collaboration with WMATA Office of Emergency Management and The Triage Group, we designed and developed the courseware series. Using the latest techniques and best practices in instructional design, eLearning development and careful attention to the needs of the learner, we created robust courseware rich with engaging content, meaningful scenarios, and plenty of learner interaction. Curriculum and courseware was designed using best practices in instructional design.

Much of the courseware developed meets Section 508/ADA compliance accessibility requirements for people with visual or motor impairments. The courseware developed for firefighters, however, did not require this due to the physical demands and nature of their job duties. This allowed for an even greater level of digital interactive experience in those courses.

Digital Learning Interaction
Concepts are presented to the learner with animation, videos and interactive exercises to keep them engaged in the learning process.

Knowledge checks
Realistic task-oriented knowledge checks facilitate information retention so learners can quickly recall the practice experiences while performing their duties in emergency response.

Personalized Learning Scenarios
Personalized, relevant, and engaging scenarios connect content to the learner’s own fire department’s jurisdiction.


New courses in this series cover a wide range of material in emergency management including:


Introduction to the Severe Weather Plan
This course introduces the Severe Weather Plan – a comprehensive basis for WMATA to deliver a cohesive and coordinated response in Metrorail, Metrobus, and MetroAccess during a severe weather event.


Continuity of Operations: An Overview
This course is an overview of the key elements of a Continuity of Operations Plan and how these plans ensure WMATA can continue its essential functions after an emergency.


An Introduction to Metrorail Response Maps
The course introduces two emergency response tools available to first responders to facilitate coordination between jurisdictional partners in emergencies: 1) Station Emergency Response and Evacuation Plan (EREP), primarily used by the incident command; 2) Metrorail Emergency Response Map (Fire maps) used by all first responders assisting with an incident.


Hot Stick, WSAD, and ETEC Training
The electrified third rail that powers trains also poses a risk of electrocution. This course trains first responders on three essential tools when responding to emergencies on the Metrorail network. First, it shows when and how to safely use voltage testers to confirm power has been removed from the third rail. Second, there is a tutorial on the Warning Strobe and Alarm Device (WSAD) that warns if power has been restored to the third rail unexpectedly – to ensure it is safe to respond in an emergency. It also covers safe use of the Emergency Tunnel Evacuation Cart (ETEC) to transport patients and/or equipment during an incident on the roadway.


Railcar Cutting: Best Practices
In some emergencies, the doors are not operational and first responders need another way to get passengers out. This course introduces best practices for gaining access to a railcar using cutting techniques in order to reach the passengers inside and help get them out after a catastrophic incident, i.e., train derailment or collision.


Railcar Lifting: Best Practices
When patients become trapped under a train or a platform, first responders don’t have time to waste. This course includes equipment, techniques, and best practices to quickly and safely lift a rail car during an emergency response.


An Introduction to the National Incident Management System
This course provides an introduction to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) that defines a common, interoperable approach to sharing resources, coordinating and managing incidents, and communicating information during emergency response. For this pre-existing course, we updated the content and modernized the look-and-feel to reflect WMATA branding.

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