June 23, 2024

California holds two-thirds of the nation’s earthquake risks, according to Earthquakeauthority.com. Starting in 2008, California began the Great ShakeOut. The Great ShakeOut is an annual drill in California that reenacts scenarios that could happen in the event of an earthquake. No one can not predict when an earthquake will occur, but this practice helps California systems to be prepared when they do.

MetroLink is a rail system in southern California and has 69 stations in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Ventura and Riverside counties.  Trains allow those who can’t drive or don’t like traffic to get to another city without paying too much. Tickets vary but a round trip from downtown riverside to L.A. Union ticket only costs $26, according to metrolinktrains.com. 

It can be quite dangerous if an earthquake happens while trains are in motion. If a train is moving while shaking it happening below the tracks the end result could be a derailment. Derailment is more common if the rail is curved than straight according to an article by Shen-Haw Ju on sciencedirect.com. 

Trains are a form of public transportation regularly used in California. With recent advances in technology, there are ways to help prevent extreme damage from an earthquake. 

Earlier this year, MetroLink presented a new system with early earthquake warning technology. This has been in the works for a while in order to appropriately automatically alter trains and apply brakes for a safe and quick slowing and stopping in the event of an earthquake. The USGS-managed ShakeAlert Earthquake Warning (EEW) safety is what MetroLink is using to help reduce injuries caused by the shaking of an earthquake. 

The ShakeAlert early warning system aims to deliver alerts quickly so that the public will know seconds before earthquake shaking begins. Saving lives and property and reducing the impacts of an earthquake are the purposes of this system. 

This year, MetroLink got the chance to utilize this new technology during the Great ShakeOut. A cutting-edge early earthquake detection system slowed MetroLink-owned tracks at 10:19 A.M on October 19th, according to a citynewsgroup.com article by MetroLink, SCRRA Media Relations. 

When talking about safety in the occurrence of an earthquake, Dr. Jong-Wha Bai, professor of civil engineering and construction management, explained the improvements of this new technology. 

“Since earthquakes can occur without any warning signs and we cannot forecast seismic activities, the best way to prevent damage and loss to our infrastructure is to prepare for the damage by enhancing the seismic performance of buildings and structures through design and retrofits,” Bai explained.  “Additionally, we have this kind of early warning system to minimize the consequences, which includes evacuating people to safer locations, cutting off power lines to avoid fires, and slowing down or stopping the rail system to prevent crashes. This new technology adopted by Metrolink can receive data from the sensor network to save a few seconds, slowing down trains and thereby increasing earthquake safety for Californians.” 

Safety is one of the top concerns for the public during the event of an earthquake. Grant Dupuy, senior engineering major, expressed his concerns for people’s safety on trains. 

“Since trains are full of people and can’t stop in an instant, anything that gives them more time to respond allows for higher safety of the passengers,” Dupuy said. 

As of right now, there is no way to predict when an earthquake will occur. There is, however, a system that quickly detects earthquakes right after they begin and calculates how strong the ground will shake. These early alert systems cause trains to stop or slow down, reducing the chance of derailment or injury. A speed reduction reduces the likelihood of derailment or injury. 

Practicing using the ShakeAlert during the Great ShakeOut is a great way to ensure that the technology of the ShakeAlert works efficiently. This allows residents of California to feel safer when traveling on a train. 

Bai elaborated on the advantages of early earthquake detection.

“A similar early warning system to detect seismic activities has been used for decades in Japan for high-speed rail systems. This type of technology, using an early warning system, may not be the only way to protect civilians. However, I believe that this new technology can help reduce the consequences of potential earthquakes in California,” said Bai. 

Alyssa Lockwood, freshman biomedical sciences major, has used trains as transportation frequently in California to get to cities like Bakersfield. Lockwood is from out-of-state, so hearing about the new safety feature in the event of an earthquake helped calm her nerves as she is not used to frequent earthquakes. 

“This personally makes me feel more safer because I understand the percussions being made in order to enhance the safety of passengers during an earthquake,” Lockwood said.  

There is no way to entirely stop an earthquake from happening and the damages it may bring. The ShakeAlert is able to minimize the amount of destruction caused by an earthquake, though. Having MetroLink use this new technology is a step in the right direction for protecting people and structures in the event of an earthquake.  

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