Shaking Things Up (Pasadena Weekly)

Congress has included $8.2 million for the Earthquake Early Warning System in its proposed budget for the coming year, “a very substantial sum in these budget constrained times,” said US Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

“The Early Warning System will give us critical time for trains to be slowed and surgeries to be stopped before shaking hits — saving lives and protecting infrastructure,” said Schiff.

Schiff called the early warning system “an investment we need to make now, not after the ‘big one’ hits.”


Earlier this year, Schiff led a group of 35 members of Congress — primarily from California, Washington and Oregon — in requesting that the House Appropriations Committee fund an Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast.


The system is currently being developed by scientists with Caltech, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, in conjunction with the US Geological Survey (USGS).


According to the USGS, 42 states have a “reasonable” chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake, and 16 of those states have a relatively high likelihood of sustaining damage.


The system, which would send alerts to cell phones and emails, could provide residents with a warning seconds or even minutes before an earthquake hits, depending on the location’s distance from the epicenter. It could be used for such things as stopping elevators and closing off gas lines and shutting down other utilities near the quake’s epicenter.


A limited system has already been deployed. It will cost an estimated $38.2 million to build a full system for the West Coast, with annual operating and maintenance costs of $16.1 million. 


Similar systems are in place in Mexico and Japan. Japan’s system has given residents there up to a two-minute warning of an impending quake. According to the USGS, those systems were not put into place until after devastating quakes caused hundreds of deaths.


“By increasing the funding for the West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System, Congress is sending a message to the western states that it supports this life-saving system,” Schiff wrote in a statement.


“But the federal government cannot do it alone and will need local stakeholders, both public and private, to get behind the effort with their own resources,” said Schiff.

Source: Pasadena Weekly