Train operators will respond 'immediately' if riders hit emergency button, OC Transpo vows
Passenger told CBC in December he heard a dial tone trying to report assault
Two months after an LRT passenger reported getting a dial tone while reporting an assault on a train, OC Transpo says operators will now respond "immediately" when someone calls for help.
On Dec. 8, 2022, a rider was heading west on the Confederation Line between uOttawa and Rideau stations when he was attacked by another passenger, according to a witness who spoke with CBC at the time.
Jonathan Loan told CBC he tried to get help while the attack unfolded by pressing the train's emergency button, but all he heard was a dial tone.
The man was punched and kicked and later required stitches. Police later confirmed they'd laid criminal charges against one person.
Passengers were able to get the man away from the attacker, Loan said, and brought him to the Rideau Centre where he received first aid.
Button should not be 'security theatre'
After the attack, Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King submitted several questions to OC Transpo general manager Renée Amilcar about the emergency button and the protocols around its use.
"We want to ensure that it's not just theatre, security theatre," said King on Friday.
"When you press the button, we want to ensure that the technology works: that there's a rapid response and that it sets off a chain of emergency response procedures."
According to a reply from the transit services department attached to the transit commission meeting agenda for Feb. 9, procedures on board trains have been updated since the attack.
Operators must now "immediately answer" all calls made through the emergency intercom, the response said. If the situation is dangerous, however, passengers "may be asked to stand by briefly until the operator can safely [offer] support."
According to the response, OC Transpo records show it took 30 seconds from the time the emergency button was pressed for the train operator to speak to the caller.
That's roughly the same amount of time Loan said it took for the entire attack to take place.
When a passenger presses the emergency button, the on-board train operator is also responsible for contacting the transit operations control centre, which can dispatch help like special constables, OC Transpo said.
The emergency intercom buttons are tested daily. Customers can also report emergencies at stations using the emergency telephones, OC Transpo said, which provide a direct line with special constables.