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Canada Line now linked to earthquake early-warning sensors

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Kenneth Chan Oct 18, 2018 2:56 pm 943

Staff in the control centre of the Canada Line now have valuable life-saving seconds, possibly even minutes, to prepare the driverless, computer-controlled train system for a major earthquake.

This is because the Canada Line is now linked to the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada’s earthquake early-warning sensors, installed into the ocean floor just off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Transmitted data from the sensors can provide a warning of between 20 seconds and 120 seconds in the event of a significant seismic event, and the Canada Line is now one of the data end-users of the system that allows its operators to prepare for such emergencies.

Yaletown-Roundhouse Station Canada Line

Yaletown-Roundhouse Station on the Canada Line. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

Earlier today, coinciding with Great BC ShakeOut drill day, an exercise was held on the Canada Line that simulated the slowing down of trains and holding them at stations in advance of an earthquake.

“Ocean Networks Canada’s earthquake early warning technology promises a new era of earthquake preparedness that will enhance the safety of both riders and workers on the Canada Line,” said Canada Line general manager Ron Powell in a statement.

Eventually, this same warning system could be hooked up to the Expo Line and Millennium Line as well, which is operated by TransLink subsidiary BC Rapid Transit Company. While the Canada Line is owned by TransLink and branded as a part of SkyTrain, it is privately operated by ProTrans BC, a division of Quebec-based engineering giant SNC Lavalin.

“It’s great to see the operator of Canada Line leading the way in this partnership with Ocean Networks Canada, to put these early warning sensors to use in a real-world scenario on rapid transit,” TransLink spokesperson Chris Bryan told Daily Hive.

“We look forward to continued collaboration on this initiative, as we continually work to improve emergency readiness right across the TransLink enterprise.”

ONC’s network of sensors is comprehensive for detecting seismic activity on the Cascadia subduction zone, and this past summer it installed the final set of sensors.

When the extensive network of underwater and land-based sensors is fully completed, ONC will be able to estimate the location and magnitude of a megathrust earthquake, enhance tsunami monitoring, and enable a warning time.

Ocean Networks Canada

Ocean Networks Canada earthquake early-warning sensor map. (ONC/University of Victoria)

The provincial government provided ONC with $5 million in 2016 to install the infrastructure for the earthquake early warning system.

Once the system is fully complete, ONC will deliver the system to the provincial government. Electric and natural gas utilities, transportation operators, schools, and other public buildings and facilities could be linked to this system to prevent loss of life and further damage.

In 2015, 50 Catholic schools and two public schools in the Lower Mainland installed early-warning alert systems that can detect an earthquake. The pilot project, funded jointly by the Archdiocese and the provincial government, required the installation of p-wave sensors at each school, buried two metres deep in the soil.

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