The Toronto Transit Commission is renaming the passenger assistance alarm to emergency alarm in hopes of reducing subway delays.
The long-yellow alarm bar is situated above the windows of subway trains, along wheelchair areas, at each end of the cars, and near the subway doors.
The TTC wants riders to equate pressing the strips to calling 911, and to only do so when it is a legitimate emergency — when a passenger requires emergency medical treatment, or the help of police or fire.
“That’s what it’s there for — emergencies. Think of it as you would 911. It’s there for fire situations, loss of consciousness or if your personal safety is being threatened,” TTC CEO Andy Byford explains in a video on when to use the new alarm system.
When riders see someone lose consciousness, a fire or criminal activity — when they would normally call 911 — they should press the alert bar.
One TTC rider named Janice said she welcomes the change, and the video helps to explain what constitutes an emergency.
“One person’s emergency may differ from another person’s, so I think educating people on what that emergency stands for will help, because I know I’ve been caught many times with a delay,” she said.
There have been over 2,670 passenger assistance alarms pulled so far this year, which totals 48 hours worth of cumulative subway delays.
When the emergency alarm is sounded, “our transit control team will immediately summon the emergency services so that they know that their help is required,” Byford said in the video.
The train then continues to the next platform so that crew members and 911 officials can investigate.
However, that can result in a subway delay from between two to 20 minutes, depending on in the incident’s urgency, which is why the TTC is stressing that the alarm should only be pressed in an emergency.
Subways behind the impacted train are also affected, which can cause a ripple-effect across the lines.
Byford said 60 per cent of the alerts are non-emergency that “adds up to hours of delay.”
An example of a non-emergency, as described by Byford, is if a rider is feeling faint. The TTC asks that the rider should get off at the next station and use the platform intercom at the Designated Waiting Area. The station’s collector will then call for help.
However, Byford stresses that rider safety is paramount.
“The key message here absolutely is if your safety is at risk, use the emergency alarm,” he said.
The video also discusses how to cut power to the third rail if a TTC riders sees someone fall or jump to the tracks.
Misuse of the emergency alarm can result in a fine of $425.
Do you think renaming the passenger assistance alarm on the subway to “emergency alarm” will help cut down on overuse? Share your comments in the space provided below.