By Walt Hunter

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Following Monday’s deadly incident in the smoke-filled tunnel beneath the streets of Washington, SEPTA officials say they well understand why any emergency unfolding aboard a train underground can be especially frightening for passengers.

But in an exclusive ride-along with CBS 3’s Walt Hunter, SEPTA’s Chief Safety Officer Scott Sauer provided a look at how his SEPTA riders are being protected.

The first thing riders need to know, Sauer emphasized, “stay in place, don’t move, we’ll get to you.”

Out of SEPTA’s more than 400 miles of rail, 18 are below ground, presenting special challenges getting passengers to safety.

“You could easily trip over the rails,” Sauer explained, “and then there’s the third rail which is electrified.”

SEPTA says all of its tunnels are fully lit with reflective signs every few feet so passengers and crew can pinpoint their exact locations for rescuers.

“Wherever you are,” Sauer pointed out, “You are within 10 to 15 feet of a sign.”

If you are uncomfortable underground, SEPTA points out its tunnels are much closer to the surface than other major cities, allowing first responders to use special street rescue grates to reach passengers more quickly.  All crews, SEPTA says, are specially trained for tunnel incidents, safety information available for riders on every car.

“It’s just like an airplane,” Sauer explained, “Read the instructions.”

Finally, SEPTA says its closely monitoring the Washington Metro incident, hoping to learn from it and make its underground system even safer.

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