Metro News Release

For immediate release: September 15, 2009

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Metro takes precautions to protect from H1N1 Flu
Riders asked to take basic actions to stay healthy

Metro is using an environmentally friendly disinfectant cleaner to wipe down surfaces throughout the Metro system to help keep riders and employees from catching the flu.

The disinfectant is used to clean and disinfect “contact-surfaces” in the Metrorail and Metrobus systems. Metrobuses and Metrorail trains and equipment are disinfected every week, and will undergo more frequent cleaning if necessary. Touch surfaces inside vehicles include fareboxes, steering wheels, seats, back-of-seat handles, floor-to-ceiling and seat-to-ceiling poles, and overhead grab bars and handles. In addition, fare machines, fare gate targets and farecard slots in rail stations are wiped down with the special disinfectant. MetroAccess also is cleaning its vehicles weekly with the environmentally friendly disinfectant as well.

Metro has taken several steps to protect its more than 1 million daily riders and 10,000 employees from contracting the H1N1 Flu.

“Metro is committed to providing safe transit service and to protecting the health and well-being of our employees, riders and the regional community,” said Metro General Manager John Catoe. “Our primary focus is to keep Metro operations and services running at or close to normal levels during a regional flu event.”

Metro riders are urged to take basic precautions to protect themselves and their fellow riders, including frequent hand washing, covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or coughing or sneezing into the upper sleeve, not hands when a tissue is not available, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth. To keep their hands clean while traveling, riders should carry tissues, waterless hand-sanitizing gels or disinfecting wipes.

“Using good personal hygiene can reduce everyone’s risk of catching diseases,” said Metro Chief Safety Officer Alexa Dupigny-Samuels. “Good health habits include washing your hands often, covering your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing or sneezing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, avoiding close contact with those who are ill and staying home when you are sick.”

Metro officials have been looking at the potential for any type of pandemic situation for several years and how any such situation could impact its operations. In 2006, Metro convened an Infectious Disease Preparedness Plan Task Force that developed the first plan of its kind in the United States transportation industry. This plan evolved over the next few years from “Infectious Disease” to “Avian” and finally to “The Metro Pandemic Flu Preparedness Plan” that is currently in place. This evolution kept abreast with guidelines and policies established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as incorporating the recommendations of local health departments and emergency management groups.

In preparation for a regional flu event, Metro has taken many actions, including the following.

• Established response phases that address the potential and actual levels of severity;
• Established roles and responsibilities of staff at all levels to ensure seamless continuity of operations;
• Coordinated planning with federal, state and local governments including health departments, emergency management agencies, and service groups;
• Continually stressed the importance of hand washing, good personal hygiene, and social distancing in preventing the spread of germs;
• Installed hand sanitizer stations in several workplace locations to minimize potential exposure to the work force;
• Increased its capacity and frequency of cleaning and disinfecting hand contact surfaces;
• Increased the complete disinfection of the Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess vehicle interiors at more frequent intervals;
• Purchased CDC-recommended personal protective equipment for staff;
• Increased the magnitude of its seasonal flu vaccination program for employees;
• Established an H1N1 Flu customer outreach program that will include signs, public announcements, a web site and other communications tactics;
• Established an employee intranet web site; and
• Established an employee telephone hotline and email account dedicated to questions about the H1N1 Flu.

Metro also is working on the following actions in anticipation of an outbreak of H1N1 Flu. Metro is:

• Addressing potential reduced staffing issues to ensure a continuing high level of service;
• Developing a plan to implement the H1N1 Flu vaccination program (when the vaccine becomes available); • Posting an H1N1 informational page on the Metro Web site;
• Developing work-at-home capability for critical functions that can be remotely performed as well as for non-essential employee jobs that can be done from home via tele-commuting;
• Stockpiling mission-critical components and equipment such as disinfectants, cleaners and personal protective gear; and
• Coordinating with suppliers to maintain receipt of key items such as fuel, parts, disinfectants and cleaners. 

Also see: Metro's H1N1 Flu webpage.

Media contact for this news release: Lisa Farbstein or Cathy Asato at 202-962-1051.
For all other inquiries, please call customer service at 202-637-7000.

News release issued at 2:43 pm, September 15, 2009.

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