Feds Fund Earthquake Early-Warning System

Feds Fund Earthquake Early-Warning System

Congress has allotted $5 million to the state of California to help fund the Earthquake Early Warning System, which should give up to one minute’s warning for those in metropolitan areas before the earthquake strikes. 

The state has tried for roughly a decade to implement such a system, which was developed using ShakeAlert technology, according to L.A. Weekly. CBS San Francisco reports that the technology was created by the U.S. Geological Survey, CalTech, the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Washington.

The funding will expedite the installation of hundreds of sensors quantifying ground movement, as well as improve the quality of sensors already installed, according to the Los Angeles Times. The current system alerts academics, some government agencies and scattered private firms, but the goal is to connect the alerts to public announcement system at certain schools and fire stations.

The system, which is designed to outrace the shaking from an earthquake by the speed of telecommunication, has come under fire for its ineffectiveness during the recent earthquakes in the Mammoth Lakes area.

But the U.S. Geological Survey wants $16.1 million a year to expand the present system of 400 sensor stations in the western states of California, Oregon and Washington. Doug Given, earthquake early-warning coordinator for the USGS, said another 275 stations are needed.

The California Office of Emergency Services wants private businesses to contribute to the effort. The Times quoted the agency’s spokesman, Brad Alexander, as saying, “There are certainly private firms out there that would want a stable and reliable earthquake early-warning system in California.”

Shakealert.org warns, “In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake and the Pacific Northwest has a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.”