I need clarification as to the purpose of the emergency cords on the subway. Signs clearly state that they are never, ever to be used in a case of emergency, so I'm curious as to why they're there and why they're called emergency cords.
According to the MTA,
Use the emergency cord only to prevent an accident or injury. For example, if someone gets caught between closing subway car doors and is being dragged, pull the cord. But if your train is between stations and someone aboard becomes ill, do not pull the emergency cord. The train will stop, preventing medical professionals from reaching the sick passenger. A sick person is better off if the train goes to the nearest station where police and medical services will be waiting or can be quickly summoned, without interruption.
Ask Gothamist also found this interesting website written by an MTA transit worker who seconds the information above, stating “DON'T pull the Emergency Brake Cord, UNLESS the train is in a station. Most emergencies are better dealt with where emergency personnel can reach the train.” We also learned that the correct terminology for the pull cord is the “Emergency Brake Valve” or EBV for short.
A member of the Ask Gothamist team was once in a train where someone did pull the cord. The police showed up and MTA employees in orange vests started patrolling around the outside of the train. They didn't find anything wrong, but the train sat there for half an hour until every car was checked. So we suspect that the MTA strongly discourages people from pulling the cord in order to av oid just this type of scenario and the major delays and headaches it produces.