Metro defends delayed alarm after derailment. Transit agency has history of slow notification and poor communication with area fire departments.

Click here to see Monday’s coverage including pictures and raw video from inside derailed train

As we told you Monday afternoon, it took at least 19 minutes before the Arlington County Fire Department was notified a derailment had occurred in its jurisdiction. Those are the official times, with Metro saying the mishap occurred at 2:45 PM and Battalion Chief Carol Saulnier saying the department got the call at 3:04 PM. Some passengers, including 9NEWS Now producer Dan Guzman think it took longer.

Chief Saulnier did not characterize the time lost in any way other than to tell STATter 911 the department always likes to be notified of an incident right away so they can begin providing service as soon as possible.

In its defense, Metro said it takes time for the train operator to investigate the problem.

Metro has been down this track before. On January 7, 2007, DC Fire & EMS Department Assistant Chief Larry Schultz called Metro’s response to a derailment at the Mount Vernon Square Station “unacceptable”. Approximately 12 minutes went by after the derailment occurred and before proper notification was made.

Since 1996 we have documented a series of delayed calls and miscommunications between Metro and area fire departments. Two of those incidents occurred in Arlington. On January 20, 2003, there was a delay in getting the Arlington County Fire Department to the correct location of a derailment near Reagan National Airport.

In the 1990s, the Arlington County Fire Department had firefighters on the tracks near the Pentagon handling a small fire when the third rail was re-energized without warning.

Unlike the derailment in 2007 where 20 people were hurt, there were no injuries in Monday’s mishap except a woman having difficulty with the heat. Still, as Nancy Yamada’s report shows, there were a lot of unhappy customers waiting for help from the fire department.

In a press release issued Monday, Metro General Manager John Catoe said, “Our first concern was for the safety of our passengers. We wanted to get them off the derailed train and get medical attention to anyone who needed it. Fortunately, there were no injuries.”

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