Palo Alto, Calif. March 21, 2016 - California's dangerous fault lines are prompting overwhelming support for technology that will detect early seismic activity and trigger an Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system, according to a new poll conducted by Probolsky Research for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
The poll found that 87.6 percent of California voters support developing a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning system called ShakeAlert that can warn of an earthquake’s approach seconds to minutes before shaking begins, potentially saving lives and millions of dollars in damage. The survey also measured the intensity of voter support, which is very high with 62.2 percent of voters saying they strongly support developing the system.
Last year, the federal government approved $8.2 million in funding for the EEW system, but an additional $38 million is still needed for full implementation. This survey shows more than 80 percent of voters agree the state of California should join the federal government to pay for part of the cost to build and operate the system. In fact, nearly three-quarters of participants responded that they support state funding, even if every taxpayer in California contributes a small amount to help pay for it.
"These results show overwhelming support for action at the state level to develop and fund the West Coast Earthquake Early Warning system,” said Adam Probolsky, chairman and CEO of Probolsky Research. “It’s clear this is an important issue for California voters to protect their communities from the imminent risk earthquakes pose.”
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has invested more than $10 million for early scientific research, development and testing of the EEW system since 2011. Most recently, at a White House Summit on Seismic Safety in February 2016, the Moore Foundation announced $3.6 million for grants to the California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington and the U.S. Geological Survey to continue the advancement of the system, including research into ocean floor sensors, cell phone technology and artificial intelligence.
“We believe investing in this technology can save lives and infrastructure” said Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “It is gratifying to see voters agree the Earthquake Early Warning system is important, and they want this critical technology to be available.”
Once fully funded, it’s estimated that the EEW, or ShakeAlert, could be functional within two years. When implemented, it will send a warning to individuals, public services and companies to help mitigate the impacts of strong shaking. These precious seconds to minutes of advance warning will allow people to drop, cover and hold, pause and prepare during surgeries or medical treatments, slow trains to safer speeds or halt them completely, bring elevators to the next floor and open their doors, in addition to numerous other life-saving actions.
Approximately 75 million Americans live in areas of significant seismic risk across 39 states. Most of our nation’s earthquake risk is concentrated on the West Coast of the United States. In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake, similar to the North Ridge earthquake of 1994. Countries including Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, Turkey and Romania currently have operating EEW systems. These systems are generally government operated and funded.
A memo outlining key findings of the California survey is available here.
About The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit www.moore.org or follow @MooreFound.
Aditi Risbud, Communications Officer, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation