Practical city living, #9: Useless emergency signs

The MTA’s Emergency Instructions (above) might provide a diversion if your subway car goes up in flames and you can’t escape, but I wouldn’t bother with them if you’re in a hurry.

Essentially, the redundant and confusing information (presented in four separate columns — Fire, Medical, Police, and Evacuation) boils down to:

  • (1) DO NOT PULL THE EMERGENCY BRAKE (conveniently located above);
  • (2) Notify the crew in case of fire, danger, or illness (yours or another passenger’s); and
  • (3) Do not do anything else unless or until instructed by an announcement or MTA employee.


I know there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about hapless bureaucratic directions. But unless you were familiar with these, I couldn’t effectively convey why the agency’s Subway Emergency Evacuation Information (pictured below) is just crying out to be a subplot in a satirical novel.

The second sign, as you can see, incorporates the first one — in a size too small to read.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Yeah, once the emergency is over, be sure to go home and watch the helpful video at

(Max pointed this out sometime last year, and now I can’t look at any of the emergency signs without wondering: Do they want us to die?)


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