Electric carts take a load off

Electric carts take a load off

T buys mobile rescue units

Boston Herald - Boston, Mass.
Date: Jun 26, 2010

Firefighters and other emergency crews responding to disasters in the T's underground subway tunnels no longer will have to rely on their own stamina to lug heavy gear to the scene - and victims out to safety - with the arrival this week of a half-dozen motorized rescue carts.

"It takes a lot of stress off the first responders," said MBTA Transit Police Lt. David Albanese, who visited London's Tube in 2005 after the July 7 terrorist bombings that killed 52 and injured 700, and studied how the carts helped evacuate survivors from tracks hundreds of feet below ground.

The bulk of the 12 rescue carts that the MBTA bought with $825,000 in Homeland Security funding - six more are to be delivered in September - will be stored at maintenance facilities throughout the subway system, including two in downtown Boston, said T spokesman Joe Pesaturo.

Boston and Cambridge fire departments also will get two carts.

The T plans to put its British-built motorized electric carts - called a MEC 4 - into action tomorrow as part of an evacuation drill in the Red Line tunnel just south of Alewife Station.

"Even in cold weather, firefighter gear is taxing at best. Physically, it drains you," said Cambridge firefighter John Bell, who joined MBTA training instructors Thursday in learning how to set up the lightweight, battery-operated cart and the three-seat flatbed trailer it can tow at a top speed of 10 mph.

Bell explained that if a train derailed and crashed or caught fire in a deep tunnel like the one leading to Porter Station, the T's deepest at 118 feet below ground, firefighters normally would have to evacuate the critically wounded and handicapped by carrying them up a 13-story emergency stairwell.

"With the cart, you can zip them in and out," he said.

Michael Kelly, a former Chicago battalion chief who is the training consultant for the cart's vendor, said the MEC-4 splits in half and can be lifted by hand and transported in the back of a pickup truck if needed.

"The idea behind these carts is that they enable emergency responders to access remote areas of the rail system quickly and efficiently," Kelly said. "They will not be exhausted by all the walking to get there."


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