Bill Would Create California Quake Warning System

September 16, 2013

The California Legislature has approved a bill that would require the development of an earthquake early-warning system similar to what exists in Japan, Mexico and other quake-prone countries.

The bill was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Oct. 13 to act on it.

The U.S. in behind other countries in creating a public alert system, which provides seconds of warning after a fault ruptures. For the past several years, the U.S. Geological Survey and several universities have been working on a test alert system that only broadcasts warnings to select users.

Scientists and public safety officials have urged the creation of a system that would use a network of sensors to detect the start of a quake and the strength and provide useful seconds of warning.

While a few seconds may not sound like much time, supporters say it’s enough notice for trains to slow down, utilities to shut off gas lines or people to hide under a table.

Early warning can’t predict earthquakes before they happen, and it is useless at the quake’s origin, since there’s no time to detect passing waves.

Researchers previously estimated it would cost about $80 million to build a statewide alert system.

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