Reps. Schiff, DelBene, DeFazio and 45 Colleagues Urge Increased Funding to Build Out Earthquake Early Warning System

Washington, DC – Today, Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) were joined by 45 Members of Congress – primarily from California, Washington, and Oregon – in sending a letter to the Appropriations Committee urging them to increase the federal funding level to $18.6 million in the Fiscal Year 2020 to fully build out and maintain an earthquake early warning system on the West Coast.

A limited earthquake early warning system developed by Caltech, UC Berkeley, University of Washington, and the University of Oregon in conjunction with the United States Geological Survey (USGS), has already been deployed in a beta testing phase and has proven that the early warning technology is sound. 

“It is imperative for Congress to continue funding construction and maintenance of the earthquake early warning system along the West Coast, which sits atop major fault lines,” said Rep. Schiff. “The system will not only help protect infrastructure and businesses, but also prevent injuries and save lives across California, Oregon and Washington. The earthquake early warning technology has been proven sound during testing in the United States, as well is in countries like Mexico and Japan, and it would be irresponsible not to provide this life-saving technology to the public before the next ‘big one’ hits.”

“The west coast has always been vulnerable to major earthquakes, with Washington state having the second highest earthquake risk nationwide,” said Rep. DelBene. “It’s critical that we expand natural disaster preparation tools using 21st century technology like ShakeAlert, which will enable Washingtonians to take swifter, preventative measures that could help save lives, protect businesses and help local communities recover faster.”

“The question is not if, but when the next major earthquake will hit the Pacific Northwest,” said Rep. DeFazio.  “Preparation will save lives, reduce injuries, and minimize infrastructure damage. Not only does Japan have the most advanced EEW system in the world, but it has also invested heavily in earthquake preparedness and earthquake-resilient infrastructure, including a response and recovery headquarters in case of a major quake.  We need to offer Oregonians the same basic protections.”

Schiff, DelBene, and DeFazio were joined on the letter by Representatives Ami Bera (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Sean Casten (D-IL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Katie Hill (D-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Scott Peters (D-CA), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Raul Ruiz (D-CA), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Schiff first secured $5 million in funding for the system in FY15. Since then, Congress has continually increased funding including $8.2 million for FY16, $10.2 million for FY17, $12.9 million for FY18, and $16.1 million for FY19. This year, the members are requesting $18.6 million in funding. This increase in funding will help USGS scale up towards an annual operating and maintenance budget of $28.6 million a year. 

The full letter sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, is below:

Dear Chairwoman McCollum and Ranking Member Joyce:

As you craft the Fiscal Year 2020 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you provide the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with $18.6 million for the construction, operation and maintenance of a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System, also called ShakeAlert.

The USGS, in collaboration with Caltech, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington, and the University of Oregon, developed ShakeAlert, which detects waves radiating from the epicenter of an earthquake. The ShakeAlert signal can be used to provide people with several to tens of seconds of warning in California, and up to a few minutes in Washington and Oregon through their phones, computers and other media. This is a “smart infrastructure” investment that will ultimately provide advanced notice so people can take cover, automated systems can be triggered to slow down trains and manage the power grid, doctors can pause surgeries, and more. The technology has been tested and proven to work effectively.

FEMA has estimated that earthquakes cost the United States, averaged over the long term, more than $5 billion a year. This common-sense investment will save lives, protect businesses, and could make a real difference in more rapid recovery for local communities, the federal government and the economy as a whole.

We appreciate the increased support the Committee has provided in recent fiscal years. In October 2018, USGS released the revised technical implementation plan for the ShakeAlert system, which included an updated operations and maintenance budget of $28.6 million a year. Providing $18.6 million for ShakeAlert in FY 2020 will help USGS scale up toward this revised funding level.

While we cannot predict when and where the next major earthquake will hit, we must do all we can to prepare ourselves so that we can mitigate the injuries, destruction, and chaos as much as possible. We appreciate your consideration of our request, and we look forward to working with you.


Adam B. Schiff
Member of Congress

Suzan DelBene
Member of Congress

Peter DeFazio
Member of Congress