California may spend $10 million on earthquake warning system

May 16, 2016

earthquakeCalifornia Gov. Jerry Brown has reversed course and proposed allocating $10 million in state funds toward an earthquake early warning system that federal government scientists and university researchers are developing. United States Geological Survey officials say the state funds would provide a big boost to the project and would allow for a limited rollout of earthquake alerts by 2018. [LA Times]

The warning system under construction would provide alerts in California, Oregon and Washington. But, the three West Coast states have thus far refused to make financial contributions from their state budgets.

In California, Brown and the state Legislature argued the money should come from private and federal sources. The federal government contributed $8 million to the project in the current fiscal year, and another $8 million has been requested for the upcoming fiscal year.

An earthquake warning system for California alone is estimated to cost about $23 million to build and $12 million annually to operate. If the system were to include Oregon and Washington, it would cost an estimated $38 million to build and $16 million annually to operate.

When a limited rollout of the early warning system occurs, places like classrooms, offices, shopping malls, amusement parks and police and fire stations will receive earthquake alerts. The alerts will allow for seconds, or perhaps more than a minute, of warning.

Officials say seconds of warning to drop, cover and hold on would save many lives during an earthquake. Alerts could also give trains time to slow down and doctors time to stop surgery.

Eventually, earthquake warning systems could halt the flow of natural gas through pipelines, which could prevent fires, and open elevators at the next floor to prevent occupants from being trapped. Scientists plan to develop apps for phones and computers that would deliver the alerts to users.

In 2014, a prototype early warning system provided researchers in San Francisco with eight seconds of warning that shaking from a magnitude 6.0 Napa earthquake was coming. Earlier this year, 30 seconds of warning was achieved before a magnitude 4.4 earthquake centered in Banning caused the ground to shake in downtown Los Angeles.

Of the $10 million Brown has proposed contributing, $6.875 million would go toward capital costs and $2.241 million would go toward educating people on how to react to alerts. Brown’s proposal calls for using the remainder of the money on staffing costs and determining future financing.


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21 Comments

  1. Pelican1 says:

    So, 10 million to start up the program. How much to run the program? Could this be another example of the ever increasing bureaucracy? How secure will the system be? How many “false” alarms can we expect? will it actually work?

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  2. CentralcoastRN says:

    Hospitals, schools, businesses, private families are already supposed to have their “drills” in place. The Government cannot possibly be expected to be responsible for the lives of individuals in natural disasters, at least beforehand. FEMA is in place to respond AFTER, and depending on the person in charge, we have all see how that went down. Don’t get me wrong, the FEMA system itself is great. It really is. It is like the mother tongue for all disaster workers. WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN PLACE (they can’t be untrained idiots), lifesaving resources get where they need to go. In New Orleans during Katrina, authorities debated over who needed to “activate” the disaster response.

    Anyway, even IF this system gave 8 seconds, if people aren’t prepared, all we will end up with is a multi-million dollar panic system.

    Families need to sit down and discuss a disaster plan. FEMA.gov does have some good information to be had on disaster planning, survival kits, etc. If a disaster happened, where would your meeting place be if home wasn’t an option? It’s those kind of conversations that save lives, not some government gadget.

    (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
    • kayaknut says:

      “The Government cannot possibly be expected to be responsible for the lives of individuals in natural disasters”, some people look at a lifetime and several generations of welfare as “natural” and feeding at the government trough for ones entire life as “natural” and they expect the government to take care of them so why not for everything else, “natural” or not. Don’t care of yourself and expect the government to pay for all aspects of your life, regardless of who really is paying for it.

      (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down

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