SFMTA’s Update on Last Week’s Medical Emergency

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Photo by Stephanie Pakrul

Last week we posted a story by a rider who saw a medical emergency when the train was stopped in the tunnel. We asked SFMTA about the incident, and spokesperson Paul Rose explained that when this medical emergency happened, three other incidents were happening at the exact same time. Here’s what he told us.

The procedure for an emergency situation is to immediately contact the Control Center. During a medical emergency, an operator would be directed by a controller to the next station in manual mode.

In this case, the operator did follow the proper procedure, however there were three incidents that took place at the exact same time, which caused a rare situation… the current radio system (which is currently being replaced) requires us to respond to each incident as they come in. The incidents were: (1) police responded to a violent altercation between patrons on the platform; and (2) the train directly ahead had a mechanical problem and needed the Control Center to clear it before it could move on. Both incidents cleared within six minutes. As soon as the Control Center responded to the call, the controllers directed the train to the station.

Rider Megan commented that she was on the same train and rushed out of the train to try to find an attendant. Luckily she found a police officer who helped her.

From the comments section, we also saw that many of you have seen other medical emergencies happen on the train, and the responses vary. Rider Brit had seen a girl collapse next to her while on the N coming out of the Church street tunnel. An excerpt of her experience:

A few months ago, I was on an outbound N coming out of the Church St. tunnel near Safeway, when a girl collapsed onto the floor next to me, dead-eyed and unresponsive. It was rush hour and I was crammed in the center of the car so I asked if someone closer to the intercom could reach the driver and explain what happened — and one guy did — but the driver either didn’t understand the passenger, or didn’t care, because after the driver radioed back “ok” the train kept rolling along as if nothing had happened, up the hill and on its way to the Sunset tunnel.

As that other passenger radioed the driver, I’d separately called 911 to ask for paramedics (as the girl was still out cold and had been for about ten seconds). What I also found odd was, the 911 operator asked me for all kinds of details (where we were, what line the train was, what direction, etc), and she told me “Ok, we’ll communicate with the driver and get the train stopped.” However, it sounds like she was actually unable to do that in the end, since we kept moving!

By the time we got to Duboce Park, the girl was regaining consciousness (though she’d been out cold for about a minute) and shrugged off numerous passengers’ offers to help (as well as medical attention, once I mentioned that paramedics were on the way)…When I got back down the hill to the Church stop, some SF firefighters were standing there clearly waiting for our train, so I explained that I’d called 911 but that the train had moved on and that the girl was luckily ok, They’d been waiting there thinking a train with an unconscious passenger must still actually be on its way out of the tunnel, since there was no train standing there as they expected.

Brit also says that she thinks the driver could have done better in communicating with 911 and paramedics. See her entire story here.

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