Officials ensure safety on the rails - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Officials ensure safety on the rails

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)

Metro North’s New Haven line is one of the busiest commuter trains in the country.

However, a commuter on board who is faced with a medical emergency could be up against time.

Once per week March Schrader of Hartford makes the trip to New Haven Union Station to catch the train into New York City.

He said it never crossed his mind what would happen if he or another passenger suddenly became seriously sick.

"Maybe ignorantly I assumed they were there, because you see them all over the place.  We have one at work,” Schrader said, referring to an automatic external defibrillator, used during cardiac arrest, which are not available on any Metro North trains.

Eyewitness News did some digging and caught a train into Grand Central.

A conductor with more than 30 years’ experience, Michael Shaw, said while they are technically not supposed to touch a customer, they won’t just stand by if there is a medical emergency.

"But whether you're a conductor, engineer, coach cleaner on the train, whoever, Metro North hires good employees, all the employees jump into action,” said Shaw, who is the union president for the Association of Commuter Rail Employees (ACRE).

James Fahey, ACRE’s executive director, said it has happened before.

"We've had babies, labor, people pass out,” he said.

Boston and Chicago have put AEDs on their commuter trains.  

As for Metro North - their stance is to radio for help and get emergency personnel to meet them at the next stop.

Fahey said the conductor will ask if there are any doctors, nurses or other emergency professionals on board to help.

In a statement, MTA said “In the region we travel through, fully trained medical, police, and fire agencies are available within minutes from any location of a train. The MTA police have more than 30 AEDs available for use throughout the region.”

"AEDs have certainly come a long way in a short period of time,” said Jim Cameron, who served nearly two decades with the state’s Commuter Council, and continues to advocate.

He said he’s not sure it is needed, at least not on the trains.

"Yeah there are a lot of passengers, but it’s also a very long train.  Where do you put it? Do you put it in the middle car? How quickly could the conductor respond to an emergency call if it’s at one end of the train, run and get the AED, bring it back to where the passenger is and get it in use,” he said.

Cameron believes the current set up works the best, and conductors said commuters have no need to worry.

"Our customers are a family. No matter what, you see someone who needs help, you're going to help them. That's what we do,” Shaw said.

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