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HomeBusinessExclusive: Woke SkyTrain has emergency lingo flip-flop

Exclusive: Woke SkyTrain has emergency lingo flip-flop


Bob Mackin

“Code Red,” we hardly knew ye. exclusively reported that TransLink’s SkyTrain and West Coast Express division announced an immediate change on Aug. 14 to the code word used when a train slams into a human.

A staffer had complained that “India” was offensive, so “Code Red” became the new phrase to radio for help when someone jumps or falls in front of a train.

Canada Line car promoting SkyTrain. (TransLink)

Not so fast.

On Aug. 25, a new bulletin from B.C. Rapid Transit Co.

“Code Red” was immediately rescinded, after receiving feedback from several employees.

The bulletin does not explain what staff said and it does not explicitly state that “India” is back. Previously, “Red” meant “confirmed” in TransLink lingo. “Code Red” is used in hospitals to denote fire. 

“We have referred the matter over to the Joint Health and Safety Committee to determine a new emergency code word for human contact with train,” the bulletin states. “Once they have reached a decision, we will share that information with you. Thank-you to all those that took the time to voice your concerns on this matter. Your passion is welcomed and appreciated.”

The Aug. 14 bulletin said that the company originally dropped “India” so as not to associate such incidents with a specific country or group of people.

“India” was on the list of emergency codes used by TransLink attendants, including “Charlie” for collision and “Delta” for derailment. The codes are derived from the International Civil Aviation Authority’s “alfa to zulu” phonetic alphabet.

“Alpha Codes are used by SkyTrain attendants to communicate matters under investigation with control room staff when in a public setting and to engage automatic responses,” said a July affidavit by TransLink FOI manager Sabina Kunkel in an Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner appeal case. “The purpose of Alpha Codes are to minimize the risk of causing panic to the public, particularly as many situations reported to TransLink staff turn out to be false alarms.”

The immediate replacement of India with Code Red came 10 days after a “track issue” was elevated to “medical emergency” status at Stadium-Chinatown station on Aug. 4. Service was disrupted for three hours. Medical emergency is the euphemism TransLink Tweets when a train has struck a human.

On July 23, a similar incident at Columbia station. A woman was wheeled out on a stretcher after being pushed in front of a train. A male was arrested and released. It is believed that he intervened between two women fighting on the platform.

A May 2015 story in the Georgia Straight quoted B.C. Coroners Service statistics showing 75 deaths since 1985 on SkyTrain tracks; at least 10 were accidental.

From 2008 to 2018, the Coroner counted 32 suicides by SkyTrain.

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