Let’s be realistic, most of us aren’t like Neo from The Matrix. And for that matter, if the unthinkable happens, you might be on your own, or there might be people around who could help.
If you live in a big, modern city, it’s likely you use the subway. The trains can reach an average speed up to 80 km/h (50 mph), so it can be dangerous when you’re up close and personal with these carriages.
Most modern subway systems around the world have safety measures in place, like protective barriers on the edge of the platform, or automatic shut off systems to stop the trains. Nevertheless, on the New York subway, customers take 1.8 billion rides every year, and accidents do happen. And sometimes they’re fatal.
So, what should you do if you stumble and fall onto the tracks? What are the odds that you’ll survive? And could you get electrocuted?
Imagine that it’s late at night, you’ve been out with friends, and you’ve had a few too many tonight. And you’re going home alone. You’re scrolling through Facebook, but then you stumble, and your phone slips from your grasp, and onto the tracks.
Step 2 – Find Safety
If you know a train is coming, you need to find a safe spot to wait until the train has gone past. Most subway tracks have a small alcove running along the track next to the platform, which should give you enough room to shelter from a passing train. Once the train has passed you should have more time to climb back up. If you know you can’t climb back onto the platform, run to the edge of the platform, where you should find some stairs. Find an emergency button and alert subway staff to your location. But as you’re moving around down there, take care, as the surface could be uneven. And don’t step on things like cell phones or banana peels that could make you fall again.
Step 3 – Get Help.
We’ve all seen those viral videos of over-crowded station platforms. In October 2019, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On a heavily crowded platform a man suddenly fainted, and pushed one woman off the edge of the platform directly in the path of an approaching train.
Luckily the crowd was able to signal to the train to stop just in time and the woman made a lucky escape. But it’s an all too real situation in rush hour. So, if you fall onto the tracks in a crowded station, the people around you are your life line. If someone offers to help you back up, let them pull you up. In the meantime, people will be doing their best to alert the staff or emergency services.
Step 4 – Move to the Other Tracks.
Now, we need to make this clear. Not all subway stations will have two tracks running through them. So this will only apply in certain stations. If there are two tracks, and there is a train approaching, this could save your life.
Step 5 – Don’t Touch the Third Rail
The third rail in the middle of the two sets of tracks carries the electrical power for the trains. No one wants to be electrocuted, and with 625 volts of electricity, the third rail could be deadly.
Step 6 – The Middle Ground.
Again, if your options are running out you can head for the middle section between the two sets of tracks. It might be possible to survive here when trains are passing, but it’s extremely dangerous because of the high voltage third rail. As you can see your options are getting more risky, so here’s our final step if all else fails…
Step 7 – Lie Down.
We’re not suggesting that you take a relaxing nap, but this may be your only option left, especially when time is of the essence. Lie as flat as possible in the part between the first two tracks and let the train pass over you.
There should be enough room for you to survive, but we all come in different shapes and sizes and there isn’t much room between the train and tracks and… I think you get what I mean. Anyway, it’s a crazy situation to be in, but try to stay still, hold your breath and stay calm. Once the train has passed follow the other steps to get off the tracks. Finally, you can thank your lucky stars and go buy that lottery ticket.
We hope you never get into this situation, but it does happen. Studies suggest that your chance of surviving is about 50/50, so make sure you remember these steps as it could increase your chances of survival. The staff in subway stations are trained and prepared for events like this, so alert staff as soon as possible and do anything you can to help.
- “NYC Subways To Close From 1 AM To 5 AM Daily For Full Cleanings”. 2021. ny1.com.
- “What Should You Do If You’Re Pushed Onto Subway Tracks?”. Palmer, Brian. 2012. Slate Magazine.
- “Subway Rider Survives Fall Onto Tracks, Train Passing Over Him In Midtown”. 2019. newyork.cbslocal.com.
- “68-year-old woman pushed onto subway tracks in random attack in Manhattan”. 2020. ABC7 New York.
- “Moment Woman Falls Onto Subway Tracks And Is Pulled To Safety – CNN Video”. 2021. CNN.
- “Why Your Subway Train Might Start Moving Faster (Published 2018)”. 2018. nytimes.com.