Since its inception in 1921, customer safety and security has sat atop the list of Toronto Transit Commission priorities. Familiar to many who ride the TTC today is the passenger assistance alarm (PAA) - the yellow strip found on all subway cars for use in an emergency. The PAA is a key component of the TTC's safety and security program.
The PAA should always be used in an emergency, whether it's a fellow passenger in medical distress, the witnessing of a criminal act, or a serious safety concern, such as a fire. When the PAA is activated, an alarm sounds in the car, the train crew and the TTC's Transit Control Centre are immediately notified and emergency services (EMS, fire, police) are dispatched. Meanwhile, the train continues to the next subway station where the train will wait, with its doors open, as the alarm is investigated.
In 2012, more than 6,000 passenger assistance alarms were activated on the subway system. About 70 per cent of those PAAs were deemed non-emergencies, resulting in 51 hours of delay to subway service. Non-emergency alarms are sometimes the result of a passenger feeling unwell on board a train. The best option in these situations is to exit the train at the next station and utilize the Designated Waiting Area (DWA) found on every station platform. DWAs have intercom access to the station collector where assistance can be sought. They are also equipped with benches, railings, enhanced lighting, CCTV cameras and a payphone.
The safety and security of its customers continues to be the TTC's number-one priority. Every PAA is thoroughly investigated, though it can take between two and 20 minutes to clear service. The effective and proper use of the PAA helps to keep service moving.