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Andrew Alden

Early Quake Warning System Proposed for California

By January 28, 2013

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Alex Padilla is a state senator who represents the San Fernando Valley, part of the Los Angeles urban area that's home to about a million people and a place where many of them remember deadly earthquakes. Today he announced legislation that will commit California to build an earthquake early warning system for the whole state.

The concept is a network of sensors that will automatically detect earthquakes and, within a few seconds, forecast how far the shaking will extend and alert users in the affected area. Depending on the location, there would be up to a minute's warning to do helpful things: sound an alarm to doctors in surgery, have firehouses open their doors, have elevators stop at the nearest floor, have emergency generators prepare to fire up, have computers ready for interruptions, have trains slow down—you name it.

Anyone who was paying attention saw how well this kind of system worked in Japan in the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and its aftershocks. Mexico, Romania, Turkey and Taiwan are among other countries that have such systems today. American researchers have helped those efforts . . . now it's time to build one for ourselves.

Toward real-time earthquake warnings
Earthquake prediction research
Earthquake engineering


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