California rolls out earthquake early warning system
On the 30th anniversary of the deadly Loma Prieta earthquake the United States Geological Survey, State of California Office of Emergency Services, and University of California at Berkeley launched the first statewide earthquake early warning system.
Early warning alert on your phone
By pressing the “go” button they allowed for public testing of the system called ShakeAlert. The system combines a new smartphone application (UC Berkeley’s MyShake app) with traditional alert and warning delivery methods such as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) – the same technology that sends you alerts for local weather emergencies or Amber Alerts. The technology uses ground motion sensors from across the state to detect earthquakes. Depending on a user’s location, alerts may provide up to tens of seconds of warning (enough to “drop, cover and hold on”) before they feel the actual shaking from an earthquake.
However, there may be users near the quake’s epicenter who do not receive the alert before they feel shaking. “This will often happen when a user is within a few tens of miles of the earthquake’s epicenter because of the time it takes to characterize an earthquake’s size and likely shaking levels, as well as delays resulting from the technologies our partners use to deliver the alert,” said USGS Earthquake Early Warning Chief Scientist Jeff McGuire.
Initial foundation support
Eight years ago, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation seized an opportunity to help develop the West Coast earthquake early warning system by investing nearly $6.5 million in the basic science research required to create it. Support for developing the backbone to the system went to three academic institutions with deep experience in seismology research and engineering: Caltech, University of California at Berkeley and the University of Washington.
Three years ago, we invested an addition $3.6 million to take advantage of the particular strengths of each research group and “to advance the science of earthquakes in a way that promises a great benefit to the public,” said Robert Kirshner, Ph.D., chief program officer for science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “Supporting excellent scientists to learn more about nature while creating a warning system that can save lives and property is an objective we are proud to support.”
A milestone: Earthquake early warning system sends first public alert to smartphones in California (LA Times)
Earthquake warning app will give anyone in California the chance to prepare (LA Times)
All systems Go for First Statewide Testing of ShakeAlert in the United States (USGS)