Fire safety in subway stations with Platform Screen Doors

31 August 2012  •  Author(s): W.K. Chow, Chair Professor of Architectural Science and Fire Engineering and Head of the Building Services Engineering Department, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Platform Screen Doors (PSDs) can be found in many modern subway stations. However, 32 separate PSD incidents have been reported in Hong Kong since 2000, affecting approximately 3,000 passengers. Some of the incidents that occurred during this period included the glass panes of the PSDs suddenly breaking, and some trains not stopping in the right position at a station, causing the train doors to be out of line with the PSDs, resulting in passengers not being able to get off the train which meant it had to move onto the next station. If these incidents were to occur during a station fire, evacuation would be extremely difficult, especially on crowded stations, and the consequences could be very serious. How PSDs operate in a station evacuation scenario must be better understood to determine an appropriate fire safety management plan.

Very high passenger loading is seen every day during rush hours on the Hong Kong local subway system (see Figure 1 on page 92) and many incidents connected to fire and poor ventilation provision due to train suspension have been reported1, with over 70,000 passengers being affected since 1979. Some incidents were recorded in crowded train cars due to service suspension resulting from electrical signal faults and other unknown reasons. Ventilation provision in crowded train compartments was observed to be inadequate when the train stopped, leading to serious consequences1. No data on in-train air quality and subway stations under crowded conditions was released to the public2. The ventilation rate required should be adequate, as was stated years ago3.

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