September 25, 2013
LOS ANGELES -- LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday ordered
creation of a statewide earthquake early warning system that could give
millions of Californians a few precious seconds of warning before a
powerful temblor strikes.
The bill signed into law Tuesday directs the Office of Emergency
Services to develop the system and identify sources of funding for it by
January 2016. The system is expected to cost about $80 million to build
and run for five years. The money cannot come from state general funds
and the law doesn't specifically address alternatives, such as federal
money or private sector partnerships.
"We need to develop this system without delay," said a
statement from Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who sponsored Senate
Bill 135. "California is going to have an earthquake early warning
system, the question is whether we have one before or after the next big
Early warning systems are designed to detect the first, fast-moving
shock wave from a large earthquake, calculate the strength and alert
people before the slower but damaging waves spread. The U.S. has lagged
behind Mexico, Japan and other quake-prone countries in developing a
system that can detect a rupturing fault and provide enough time for
trains to brake, cars to pull off roads, utilities to shut off gas lines
and people to dive under tables and desks.
The system can't predict earthquakes and people at the epicenter won't get any warning, but those farther away could benefit.
During the 2011 earthquake-caused tsunami in Japan, millions of
people received five to 40 seconds of warning depending on how far they
were from the epicenter. The notices were sent to cellphones and
broadcast over airwaves.
For several years, the U.S. Geological Survey has been testing a
prototype that fires off messages to about two dozen groups in the
state, mostly scientists and first responders. In March, it provided up
to 30 seconds of warning of a magnitude-4.7 earthquake in Riverside
A full-scale system would mean upgrading current earthquake
monitoring stations and adding some 440 additional sensors in vulnerable
regions, such as the northern tip of the San Andreas near San Francisco
and the San Jacinto Fault in Southern California.