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BART tests earthquake response as Loma Prieta anniversary approaches

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BART conducted an unannounced earthquake drill at 10:15 a.m. Oct. 16 in conjunction with a statewide exercise called the Great California ShakeOut. For BART, the Great California ShakeOut meant the Operations Control Center 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. The
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.

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