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Rep. Schiff and 25 West Coast Members Urge Funding to Construct Earthquake Early Warning System

Washington, DC –Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was joined by 25 Members from California, Washington and Oregon in sending a letter to the Appropriations Committee urging them to fully fund an earthquake early warning system. A limited system developed by Caltech, UC-Berkeley and University of Washington, in conjunction with the United State Geological Survey (USGS), has already been deployed and has proven that the early warning technology is sound.  Schiff’s letter requests additional funding for the Earthquake Hazards Program in USGS to kickstart the process of building out the early warning system so we can be ready for the next big quake.

It is estimated that deploying a full system of sensors along the West Coast would cost approximately $16.1 million a year to build, operate and maintain. Schiff was joined by Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Scott H. Peters (D-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Alan S. Lowenthal (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA) and Michael Honda (D-CA).                                                                                                                            

“Every few months, we’re reminded about our vulnerability with tremors, earthquakes and aftershocks rattling our homes and businesses,” said Schiff. “It’s absolutely critical that the U.S., and the West Coast in particular, invest in an early warning system so that lives can be saved and infrastructure can be protected.  Even a few seconds of warning before the next ‘big one’ will allow people to seek cover, automatically slow or stop trains, pause surgeries and more – and the benefits of this small investment now will be paid back many times over after the first damaging quake.”

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

Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member Moran:

As you craft the Fiscal Year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you provide the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with an additional $16.1 million for the construction, operation and maintenance of an Earthquake Early Warning System.

The USGS, in collaboration with Caltech, UC Berkeley, and the University of Washington, has developed an Earthquake Early Warning system that detects waves radiating from the epicenter of a quake and would provide people with several to tens of seconds of warning in California, and up to few minutes in Washington and Oregon through their phones, computers and other media. With advanced notice, 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.

An Earthquake Early Warning system along the West Coast would cost $16.1 million per year to construct, operate and maintain. 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.

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.