In September 2022, K&J Safety and Security Consulting Services, Inc. (K&J) sent a team of highly experienced transit professionals to Honolulu to support critical testing and validation activities for the nation’s first fully-autonomous rail rapid transit system – operated by Hitachi Rail Honolulu (HRH) for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART). Over the two intense months that followed, K&J’s growing contingent on the island would not only conduct comprehensive independent observations of the system’s pre-revenue trial runs but also design and execute a full-scale emergency response exercise – the largest and most complex in the company’s history.

Comprehensive Testing & Validation Program

The testing program aimed to assess Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) developed for response to a variety of operational conditions, ranging from routine events to emergencies. K&J staff evaluated these procedures and compliance with them using multiple scenarios that replicated possible real-world conditions. For each iteration, detailed findings were reported to an executive review panel.

Initially scheduled for 30 days, K&J’s technical expertise and professionalism compelled the client to request a multi-week extension, which K&J was able to accommodate without interruption. K&J’s team of six ultimately deployed on 37 shifts, observing and reporting on over 100 scenario evolutions. Concurrently with these operations taking place in the field, the K&J team also evaluated the roles and capabilities of the Operations Control Center (OCC) staff, control and communication systems, and revenue service vehicles.

Complex Full-Scale Emergency Response Exercise

Serving as a capstone to the intensive scenario-based testing of the system, K&J also designed, conducted, and evaluated a major state and federally-mandated full-scale exercise. The event was specifically intended to demonstrate and assess a coordinated, multi-jurisdictional response to a serious rail emergency prior to the start of revenue service.

With the system’s rigorous trial operations schedule necessitating a highly accelerated development timeframe, K&J augmented its existing Hawaii team with four emergency preparedness specialists. Working closely with our client and outside partners, including Honolulu’s first responder agencies, K&J was able to rapidly unify stakeholders and develop a detailed Exercise Plan based on the federal government’s Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP). Throughout, K&J staff provided the coordination, legwork, and resources to ensure continued forward momentum.

Executed on October 22, 2022, near East Kapolei Station in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, the exercise centered on the simulated derailment of a passenger-filled train headed Westbound on the elevated guideway. Of over 250 participants, approximately 50 were members of the community recruited by K&J to act in the role of passengers. These volunteers were assigned a variety of injuries, many severe, which added to the evacuation, treatment, and triage challenge faced by rail and emergency personnel. Logistics were also complex, with road closures, extensive media and VIP attendance, and public information requiring careful planning on the part of K&J, HRH, and partner agencies.

A cadre of nearly 50 K&J-trained controllers and evaluators monitored all aspects of the exercise play, ensuring a safe event and the complete capture of relevant observations. The latter was carefully analyzed and used by K&J to conduct multiple debriefing sessions with exercise participants, develop an After Action Report & Improvement Plan, and facilitate an After Action Conference.

K&J’s recent testing and exercise accomplishments for Honolulu’s new rail transit system mark both the most extensive and longest on-site client team deployments in the company’s history. K&J is proud to note that these activities represent a continuation of years of support for HRH and HART that have included developing a robust NIMS and ICS training program, conducting a series of progressively challenging emergency response table-top exercises, and developing Roadway Worker Protection (RWP) and Operating Rule Books with supplemental comprehensive training programs for all staff.

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