Earthquake Early Warning is intended to give users up to tens-of-seconds of notice

Senator Alex Padilla Monday announced legislation to help create an earthquake early warning system similar to that which is in place and currently in use in Japan.
Padilla’s announcement comes after a joint study with Caltech and Japan Agency for Marine Earth-science and Technology published describing for the first time a statewide California earthquake involving the Los Angeles area and San Francisco.
Padilla, who was joined by a panel of seismologists representing Caltech, UC Berkeley and the US Geological Survey said, “California is going to have an earthquake early warning system, the question is whether we have one before or after the next big quake.”
Building upon the California Integrated Seismic Network, seismol process data from an array of sensors throughout the state. The system strength and the progression of earthquakes, alert the public within advanced warning before potentially damaging ground shaking takes place.”
“A fully developed earthquake early warning system would provide Californians critical seconds to take cover, assist loved ones pull to the side of the road, or exit stop a train or power down other critical infrastructure,” Padilla said. The system would not only alert the public, it would could also speed the first responders to quickly identify areas hardest hit by the quake.
Caltech, USGS, and UC Berkeley operate the California Integrated Seismic Network, and collaborate on earthquake early warning research. Caltech researchers are using real-time data from this network to develop and test early warning algorithms or methods to detect and estimate earthquake size very quickly. Several of these algorithms have been deployed as part of the ShakeAlert demonstration (beta) system, which is providing warnings to test users. The Caltech group headed by Prof. Tom Heaton, includes Dr. Maren Boese, Dr. Egill Hauksson, Prof. Jim Beck, Prof. Pablo Ampuero, and severalgraduate students. The range of research activities includes methods to quantify both moderate-sized as well as major earthquakes that may affect wide areas of southern California. Caltech researchers are developing usertools to allow early adopters to get familiar with the early warning technology. They are also developing warning technology that can be used for automated smart response to safeguard large engineered systems.
At this time, earthquake early warning remains a beta test system. Benefits to the public will not be realized until it is enhanced and deployed as a production system.
Potential benefits from the technology include:
1. Ability to get into a safe place and protect yourself (Drop, Cover, Hold On)
2. Get out of or away from hazardous situations (high places, glass, & chemicals)
3. Stop elevators at the nearest floor to let people out
4. Protect precision manufacturing equipment and chemicals
5. Shut down operations that involve handling caustic materials (secondary disasters)
6. Slow down or stop trains
7. Temporarily halt medical procedures; & protect patients in hospitals
8. Protect students in classrooms
9. Safeguard customers in amusement parks
10. Safeguard staff working in potentially hazardous locations
11. Improved and near-real time situational awareness
The initial cost estimate for the system is $80 million. Padilla said that with the magnitude 6.7 Northridge Earthquake claiming 60 lives and causing at least $13 billion in damage, the system is an intelligent investment. “About 90% of the world’s earthquakes and over 80% of the world’s strongest quakes occur along the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire includes the very active San Andreas Fault zone in California. We all know a big quake will hit again in the future. We should be smart and use our advanced science and technology to detect seismic activity and alert people in advance of an approaching quake,” Padilla said.
Indeed, the Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast released in 2008 predicted a 99.7 percent likelihood of a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in California in the next 30 years and a 94% chance of a magnitude 7.0.
Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, Turkey, Romania, Italy and China either have or are working on earthquake early warning systems.
To read the study on a statewide earthquake go to: http://www.caltech.edu/contentlfaulty-behavior
Dr. Lucy Jones, Senior Advisor for Risk Reduction, U.S. Geological Survey points the earthquake early warning system as Senator Alex Padilla looks on Monday at a press conference at Caltech. -Photo and story by Terry Miller

January 31, 2013

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