From ‘Explain when train’s emergency button can be used’, 18 April 2013 and ‘Emergency button not for those caught between train doors?’, 19 April 2013, ST Forum
(Terence Teoh Pin Quan): ON TUESDAY night, I was taking the south-bound MRT train towards Ang Mo Kio. At Yio Chu Kang station, a woman asked for help in a desperate tone, then pressed the emergency button on the train. I realised that an elderly man had his arm caught between the train doors. The doors did not re-open after the usual few seconds, and his arm was stuck for about a minute.
When the doors did open, the old man entered the train and was unharmed. However, an SMRT staff member came and demanded to know who had pressed the button.
When the woman owned up, he asked in frustration: “Why you press the button?” Later, when the train stopped at Ang Mo Kio station, the woman was detained and further questioned. Thankfully, another man stood up for her. When is the right time to press the emergency button? If someone gets caught between the train doors, are we supposed to wait until the train starts moving before we press the button?
Perhaps SMRT can clarify the protocol for using the emergency button.
(Lydia Fung): …I was caught between the train doors on the Circle Line last year. A woman inside the train tried to pull me in. I asked her to press the emergency button, but she said the button was not for this purpose, and that there was a hefty fine for indiscriminately pressing it.
I lodged a complaint after I got off the train at Paya Lebar station, but was told that the train was fully automated with no driver, and that there were cameras to alert staff to emergencies. I received a call from SMRT a week later, telling me the same thing. I asked that the public be educated on the usage of the emergency button, but nothing has been done.
The advice given in the SMRT Rider Guide website is that you may push the button (or technically the ECB, Emergency Communication Button) if you get caught between doors while ON the train, and assures us that the train would not move when doors are not fully closed. In the first case, the elderly man appears to be outside the train when his arm got clamped. Judging by the seniority of the victim and the probability of him having a heart condition, pushing the panic button seems to be the instinctive thing to do. Strangely enough, in 1991, a passenger was lauded as ‘quick-thinking’ for pressing the ECB when a woman’s HANDBAG got caught between doors (MRT slams on handbag, 23 Dec 1991, ST). It appears that there are times when an inanimate object deserves more attention than a living person’s limb.
Sometimes, it’s actually better to alert the staff through the ECB than try to be a hero yourself. Last year, an elderly woman who got clamped got a ‘large piece of skin RIPPED OFF’ when commuters struggled to free her. In 1988, the button was expected to bring the train to a stop for children who failed to board the train after their parents. One complained about a rude SMRT officer for not understanding the gravity of having left a 6-year old behind on the platform. It was an ‘emergency’ because a helpless child without a parent could have been ‘SCARED TO DEATH’. (See below for SMRT’s U-turn on ‘lost child’ policy) Most emergency hotlines are deliberately vague on examples of situations that warrant activation, because anyone can argue that something needs urgent attention as long as it happens to them. I, for one, would sooner die of embarrassment if I were caught spreadeagled and squashed in the groin by the jaws of death before anyone would come to my rescue.
SMRT has also used button-pushing to explain ‘longer travelling times’ in a series of tweets in 2012. A spokesperson also suggested that the button may be activated solely by people LEANING on it. With the crowds these days and the impending free ride morning rush, I’m hardly surprised. To some freeloaders, NOT getting to the gantry by 7.45 am to earn your free ride is a serious emergency indeed. But aside from people suddenly collapsing and carriages catching fire, you MAY push the button under certain special circumstances without a SMRT warden scuttling over demanding “WHY YOU PRESS BUTTON?!’ with a wagging white-gloved finger.
- When a glass panel breaks
- This excruciating scenario:
- When there’s FIGHTING over people flouting No Eating on Train laws. (However, in a 2009 poll, 52% of commuters voted NO to pushing the button when there appears to be an ASSAULT, especially if it’s gang related, not so much because of the fear of being fined $5000, but of becoming the next target in a gang raid).
- When someone looks like a terrorist about to bomb the train. In the same poll above, 51% would report a ‘suspicious character on board’. I highly doubt it though. I see suspicious characters all the time; they carry dangerous construction tools, smell bad, speak in coded language and nobody ever whispers into the ECB that there is a terrorist insurgence on board.
- When the train breaks down and you need to ‘talk to the train officer’. Unfortunately some commuters take train delays as reason enough to push the button and demand to know what’s going on, inadvertently worsening delays. A $5000 fine is well deserved for such counterproductive kancheong-ness. If Sticker Lady Samantha Lo had targetted ECB buttons instead of traffic lights, she could have saved us all a hell lot of time.
- When your lost child is trapped on the train. In 2012, Senior Manager Bernadette Low responded to a parent whose kid ran into a train without her by THANKING a female passenger for pushing the ECB so that the two can be reunited. Try explaining that to your boss if you’re late for a very important meeting. I think such parents need to pay a nominal ‘Lost and Found’ fee at least if it affects hundreds of passengers. Especially if it costs them a free ride.