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The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) next month will begin stationing a uniformed fire officer at its rail operations control center at all hours, agency officials announced yesterday.Currently, fire liaisons are on duty at the center for a total of 80 hours a week Monday through Friday and during special events. The expansion calls for staffing the center 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help coordinate emergency communication between WMATA and first responders. The expansion is the result of a new memorandum of understanding between the agency and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, WMATA officials said in a press release.WMATA created the fire and rescue liaison position in July 2015. In addition to coordinating emergency response, the fire liaisons will help develop policy recommendations and provide supplemental emergency training for rail controllers, agency officials said."Extending the hours of the fire/rescue liaison position at the Rail Operations Control Center ensures that first responders have 'eyes and ears' on Metrorail operations throughout the entire service day," said WMATA's Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik.Since WMATA created the position, coordination between the agency and the region's emergency responders has improved dramatically, said Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor in the release.The new position was one of several additional safety initiatives aimed at improving emergency response. Following the January 2015 fatal smoke incident outside WMATA's L'Enfant Plaza Station, the agency increased training, emergency drills and enhanced radio testing protocols to provide a real-time outage map for controllers and first responders.Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board today is scheduled to release a report on the probable causes of last year's fatal smoke incident. The federal agency's report is said to criticize both WMATA and D.C.'s overall emergency response system, according to the Washington Post.
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