Emergency Response

In addition to developing, operating and expanding public ferry service in the San Francisco Bay Area, WETA has a legislative mandate to operate and coordinate emergency water transit when regional transportation systems are disrupted due to disaster or other events.

Emergency Water Transportation Operations

Emergency water transportation operations are defined as emergency movement of survivors, first responders and disaster service workers (DSWs) following a major disaster, such as an earthquake. WETA would assist regional, state, and federal agencies by assessing and monitoring the status of water transit resources (including facilities, vessels, fuel, and crews), coordinating additional mutual aid or contracted resources, and working with WETA’s own contracted ferry operator to create and implement an emergency water transportation service plan.

Coordination of a water and land emergency transportation service plan of operations for movement of these populations will require multi-agency coordination with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), Caltrans, the United States Coast Guard, surface transportation agencies, organizations operating shelters and jurisdictions requesting transport. WETA will manage and operate water transportation routes that provide service between ferry terminals as part of a larger transportation system that connects with care and shelter sites or base camps. Movement of first responders and DSWs into incident areas to provide life safety services is likely to require shuttle service as many of these individuals will stage out of base camps away from incident locations.

Transportation System Disruptions

WETA also implements enhanced ferry service when there are disruptions to the region’s transbay transportation infrastructure such as closure of the Bay Bridge, transit strikes, closure of the BART Transbay Tube, or major accidents. In such circumstances WETA/San Francisco Bay Ferry responds as a transit agency, coordinating increased service with  MTC and connecting transit agencies.

WETA in Action – Response to the 2013 BART Strikes

BART experienced a work stoppage in 2013 and the 400,000 passengers BART normally carried each day were left to find alternate modes of transportation to get around the Bay Area. WETA stepped up to assist the region by increasing its San Francisco Bay Ferry service to the maximum level possibleand carrying record numbers of passengers.

For many of the passengers riding the ferry during the event, this was their first time using San Francisco Bay Ferry to commute to work. Many continued to ride San Francisco Bay Ferry even after the stoppage had ended, which led to the tremendous increase in ridership that we see today.

Coordination, Training and Exercises

To remain agile and prepared to respond to a regional emergency, WETA regularly coordinates its emergency response efforts with the MTC, other Bay Area transit agencies, Cal OES, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, the Ports of San Francisco and Oakland.

In addition to internal staff training, WETA participates in several emergency response exercises and training workshops each year. Recent participation includes:

  • Metropolitan Transportation Commissions Emergency Table Top annual exercises
  • San Francisco Fleet Week Defense Support of Civilian Authorities exercises
  • Bay Ferry exercises
  • Urban Shield Yellow Command
  • Golden Guardian

Additionally, WETA’s contracted operator Blue & Gold Fleet participates in some of the above exercises as well as operation-based exercises such as oil spill drills and Vessel Mutual Assistance Plan exercises.

Additional Resources

  • WETA's Emergency Response Plan (2016)
  • San Francisco Bay Ferry BayAlerts
    BayAlerts is San Francisco Bay Ferry's rider notification system, providing regular passengers with important, timely, and customized ferry service information including emergency information.

  • 511.org
    511 is your one-stop phone and web source for up-to-the-minute Bay Area traffic, transit, rideshare, and bicycling information.

  • SF72.org
    SF72 is San Francisco's hub for emergency preparedness provided by the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.

  • California Office of Emergency Services
    The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services exists to enhance safety and preparedness in California through strong leadership, collaboration, and meaningful partnerships.

  • The American Red Cross
    The American Red Cross teaches individuals, families, and organizations how to prevent, prepare for, mitigate, and respond to disasters through its Community Disaster Education program.