SAN FRANCISCO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A magnitude 6.9 earthquake hits the Bay Area. The devastation stretches along the Hayward Fault in the East Bay with impacts in Marin County, San Francisco and the Peninsula. Bridges, roads, mass transit, hospitals and gas and electric service are severely impacted, the cell network is nearing full capacity and aftershocks are still to come.
“Within 15 minutes of the magnitude 6.0 Napa earthquake in August 2014 – the largest earthquake in California since the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 – these modeling technologies enabled us to develop resource requirements and immediately deploy more than 200 electric employees”
And life has changed for millions of people. Does this sound like the latest summer blockbuster? It’s not.
Practicing its response to a major earthquake, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) staged a company-wide exercise today (June 8) at various facilities in the Bay Area. The event tested the company’s readiness and demonstrated how the integration of earthquake-related technologies helps in its quake-related preparation and response.
Leveraging in-house and open-source technology to simulate the impacts of a magnitude 6.9 quake along the Hayward Fault, PG&E confirmed its ability to quickly estimate resource needs and identify where potential impacts could occur.
In the exercise scenario, which included more than 400 employees in San Francisco, Oakland, Concord, San Ramon and in other locations, the shaking lasted for 10 to 25 seconds and devastated much of the Bay Area.
The one-day drill was broken up into two parts, practicing the company’s immediate response after the quake struck as well as its restoration and customer-support efforts 72 hours later.
PG&E leveraged its earthquake damage-modeling system, DASH – an acronym for Dynamic Automated Seismic Hazard – to generate rapid, facility-specific damage estimates that help prioritize where to dispatch assessment and repair crews.
“Within 15 minutes of the magnitude 6.0 Napa earthquake in August 2014 – the largest earthquake in California since the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 – these modeling technologies enabled us to develop resource requirements and immediately deploy more than 200 electric employees,” said Barry Anderson, PG&E’s vice president of Electric Distribution who oversees the company’s emergency-response organization. The utility was able to restore service to about 70,000 customers in a little more than 24 hours, and quickly checked on gas leaks and sent many employees to the area to check in on customers.
PG&E utilized ShakeCast and ShakeMaps – open-source software developed by The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – to produce near-real-time digital maps of ground motion and shaking intensity, facilitating notification of shaking levels at key facilities.
“For PG&E, the key is preparedness. Natural disasters will take place and they will impact gas and electric service. It’s our job to improve our processes to ensure a safe and efficient response,” Anderson added.
PG&E also demonstrated the use of earthquake early warning (EEW) systems as a part of its seismic response efforts.
The purpose of an EEW system is to identify and characterize an earthquake a few seconds after it begins, calculate the likely intensity of ground shaking that will result, and deliver warnings to people and infrastructure in harm’s way via PA system, computer, smartphone, and eventually, via television and radio.
“Although still fairly early in development, we believe earthquake early warning will help us identify potential applications which will allow both automated and human actions in the seconds before an earthquake to protect lives, lessen property damage and ensure rapid service restoration,” Anderson said.
PG&E continues working with partners, including the Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross and U.C. Berkeley’s Seismological Laboratory, to expand the use of EEW.
Earthquakes can be powerful forces of nature that can disrupt essential services, and just as PG&E has robust emergency response plans, we encourage our customers to have their own personal plans for emergencies as well. Customers should maintain an emergency preparedness kit with enough supplies on hand to be self-sufficient for at least three days, and preferably up to one week. Customers should also prepare and practice their personal emergency plan to ensure all members of their household know what to do in the event of an emergency—especially since everyone may not be together. To help customers develop plans for earthquakes and other natural disasters, useful preparedness information can be found at websites for the American Red Cross and the California Office of Emergency Services.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in San Francisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of the nation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California. For more information, visit www.pge.com/ and www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/index.page.