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Panic Bars

Kenneth Levy: I'm Kenneth Levy and this is TransitTrax, New York City Transit's podcast service.

Getting into the subway system is as easy as swiping a MetroCard and walking through the turnstile.

To help make getting out of the system just as easy, New York City Transit began modifying subway gates with “panic bars” to allow for easy egress, or exit, at locations where turnstiles aren't always available.

Gricelda Cespedes, Assistant Chief Station Officer, Stations Department:
The purpose of the panic bars is so that we can have customers exit the station unassisted.

Kenneth Levy: Gricelda Cespedes is Assistant Chief Stations Officer responsible for Maintenance, and is overseeing the panic bar installation at stations system-wide. The panic bar kits are being installed on black metal “slam gates,” as they're called. The panic bar initiative was launched following the terrorist attacks on the London Underground, with the goal of providing a way for customers to safely evacuate a station in an emergency, according to Ken Brown from New York City Transit's Office of System Safety.

Ken Brown, NYC Transit Office of System Safety: Previous to the installation of the gates with the panic hardware required some intervention from an agent who was located in another location in the booth. The gates were controlled by a magnet, so they could be released remotely. So if we had an emergency, by rules the clerk could release the gate, but now we're basically allowing customer to have control of exiting from the station themselves.

Kenneth Levy: The gates are easily identifiable with red and white signs, which read "EMERGENCY EXIT" at the top and instructions on how to operate the bar mid-level.

Gricelda Cespedes: It's a stainless steel bar that's attached to the gate that when depressed, the door will open automatically.

Kenneth Levy: Here's how that sounds, yes, sounds.

(Bar depressed and alarm sounds)

Gricelda Cespedes: The purpose of the alarm is so that it can indicate that the door is open.

Kenneth Levy: The alarm will continue for 30 seconds, then shut off. In addition to facilitating emergency egress, these kits are also helping New York City Transit comply with new State Codes.

Ken Brown: The code requires that the customer or that anyone be allowed to egress by a single action. So the way we had it set up previously, it required two actions. One, the clerk would have to take an action and then the person would have to open the gate. Now there's just a single action. The person, whoever needs to get out, can just simply press the bar and basically are able to remove themselves from the station.

Kenneth Levy: To date, more than 450 panic bar kits have been installed. A total of 1,500 will be in place by the end of the year, in all fare control areas where you can enter or leave a station, where feasible, in the system's 468 stations. The net effect will be more exits available on a daily basis that riders can use in an emergency. Emergencies don't happen often in the subways, but when they do we want you - our customers - to be prepared, because we're concerned about safety, your safety. For TransitTrax, I'm Kenneth Levy.