BART tests earthquake response as Loma Prieta anniversary approaches


BART tests earthquake response as Loma Prieta anniversary approaches

BART conducted an unannounced earthquake drill at 10:15 this morning in conjunction with a statewide exercise called the Great California ShakeOut. For BART, the Great California ShakeOut meant the Operations Control Center (OCC) ordered trains to stop and hold position. Once trains were stopped, an announcement was made to inform passengers of the drill and then trains continued to their destinations. BART System Safety staff observed and evaluated the earthquake response in the OCC and will compare notes with OCC managers.

"Preparing to respond to and recover from a major earthquake are key elements to our emergency planning," said BART Board President Thomas M. Blalock. "As a licensed civil engineer, I know very well the challenges the Bay Area could face following a significant earthquake. We want to ensure that BART is ready to meet those challenges."

The Great California ShakeOut was a statewide drill for individuals and organizations to practice how to protect themselves during earthquakes and to raise public awareness. Today’s earthquake drill took place just days before the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. On October 17, 1989, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter in Santa Cruz County struck shortly after 5 p.m. The earthquake collapsed a portion of the Bay Bridge and a section of the Cypress Street viaduct on Interstate 880. BART suffered no major damage and resumed service shortly afterward, providing a vital link between San Francisco and the East Bay.
A U.S. Geological Survey statistical analysis predicts a high probability of one or more major earthquakes hitting the Bay Area within the next 30 years. Unlike Loma Prieta, which was centered more than 50 miles south of San Francisco, future earthquakes could be close to, or directly under, the BART system. "Failing to plan is planning to fail by default and that’s just not the way we operate," said BART Board Member John McPartland. "BART customers can be assured that this transit agency considers safety, including safety during an earthquake, its top priority." Director McPartland formerly worked in the BART System Safety Department and was a Chief Officer in the Oakland Fire Department, where he was responsible for the mitigation of emergencies of every kind throughout his career.

While BART participated in today’s Great California ShakeOut it also simultaneously tested seismic early information technologies. These systems that could one day provide the Operations Control Center real time information about seismic activity seconds before the major shock of an earthquake. This testing is in its very early stages.

As BART hones its response procedures, the transit agency’s Earthquake Safety Program is concurrently upgrading vulnerable portions of the original BART system to ensure public safety and to ensure that they can return to operation shortly after a major earthquake. System extensions built mostly during the 1990s used more stringent seismic criteria than the original system and do not require upgrades. "For BART, preparing for an earthquake isn’t something we do just when a drill is scheduled," said BART Board Vice President James Fang, the longest serving Board member. "We prepare for an earthquake every day. The important work going on in the Earthquake Safety Program is a big part of that preparation." The Earthquake Safety Program is a 10-year project and will strengthen the Transbay Tube as well as BART stations and more than 1,900 columns that hold up elevated tracks.
The public can learn more about the Earthquake Safety Program at
The 20th anniversary on October 17th of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake has refocused the public’s attention on the probability of a major earthquake in the Bay Area. BART’s success in maintaining continuous service directly after the Loma Prieta earthquake while the Bay Bridge was closed reconfirmed BART’s importance as a transportation lifeline.  The public can learn more about how BART bounced back and hear from train operators who were on duty when the Loma Prieta quake hit by watching a BARTtv News story at