Mayor Villaraigosa Announces $5 Million in Grants for Earthquake Early Warning System

Mayor Villaraigosa Announces $5 Million in Grants for Earthquake Early Warning System

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined with the US Geological Survey and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) Approval Authority members to announce $5 million in federal funds for the region’s Earthquake Early Warning System.

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“Our partners at the US Geological Survey and Caltech have been working on the development of a cutting-edge early warning system.” Mayor Villaraigosa said. “We’re proud to provide this additional funding to improve the system’s capacity and bring it to the level required to make earthquake early warning a reality in Southern California.”

The USGS, in partnership with CalTech, UC Berkeley, and the Southern California Earthquake Center, has been developing an Earthquake Early Warning system for Southern California since 2006.

The objective of earthquake early warning is to rapidly detect the initiation of an earthquake, estimate the level of ground shaking to be expected, and issue a warning before significant ground shaking starts. This can be done with sensors placed near active fault zones that detect the first energy waves to radiate from an earthquake.  Those first waves travel at the speed of sound but cause little damage.  The following waves, which bring the strong shaking that causes most of the damage, travel slower.  The greater the distance from the epicenter, the longer the warning time which can range from a few seconds to a few tens of seconds.

Those seconds could:

  • allow people to drop, cover, and hold on and grant businesses time to shut down and move workers to safe locations,
  • give medical professionals time to stop delicate procedures,
  • protect travelers by providing time for trains to slow or stop, for elevator doors to open, for bridge traffic to clear, for slowing or stopping traffic, and even stopping landings and take-offs at airports, and
  • enable emergency responders to prepare by opening fire station doors and starting generators.

When the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck Japan in March 2011, 50 million residents received warning in advance.  The country’s earthquake information systems gave people about 200 miles away in Tokyo up to 30 seconds or more to prepare before strong shaking from the epicenter reached them. People closer to the epicenter, which experienced the strongest shaking from this offshore event, received up to 5-10 seconds warning.

For further information, visit www.shakealert.org

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