To the general public who had their televisions tuned to watch the World Series, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake was a lifelines earthquake. It was the images seen around the world of the collapsed Cypress Street viaduct, with the frantic and heroic efforts to pull survivors from the structure that was billowing smoke; the collapsed section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and subsequent home video of a car plunging off the open span; and the spectacular fire in the Marina District of San Francisco fed by a broken gasline. To many of the residents of the San Francisco Bay region, the relation of lifelines to the earthquake was characterized by sitting in the dark because of power outage, the inability to make telephone calls because of network congestion, and the slow and snarled traffic. Had the public been aware of the actions of the engineers and tradespeople working for the utilities and other lifeline organizations on the emergency response and restoration of lifelines, the lifeline characteristics of this earthquake would have been even more significant. Unobserved by the public were the warlike devastation in several electrical-power substations, the 13 miles of gas-distribution lines that had to be replaced in several communities, and the more than 1,200 leaks and breaks in water mains and service connections that had to be excavated and repaired.
Like the 1971 San Fernando, Calif., earthquake, which was a seminal event for activity to improve the earthquake performance of lifelines, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake demonstrated that the tasks of preparing lifelines in 'earthquake country' were incomplete-indeed, new lessons had to be learned.