Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) announced that the Appropriations Committee has included $5 million in funding in the Fiscal Year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for the Earthquake Early Warning System, the first time Congress has ever provided funding specifically for the system. Earlier this year, Schiff led a group of 25 Members from California, Washington and Oregon in organizing a request that the committee fund an early earthquake warning system. A limited system developed by Caltech, UC-Berkeley and University of Washington, in conjunction with the United State Geological Survey (USGS), has already been deployed and has proven that the early warning technology is sound.
This $5 million in funding will allow those developing the statewide system to begin purchasing and installing additional sensors, hire new staff members, and come closer to deploying comprehensive early earthquake warning coverage throughout earthquake prone regions of the West Coast. The Schiff language included in the Appropriations bill reads: “…the Committee provides $5,000,000 from within the funds provided for Earthquake Hazards to transition the earthquake early warning demonstration project into an operational capability on the West Coast.”
“It’s critical that the West Coast implement an earthquake early warning system that will give us a heads up before the ‘big one’ hits, so we can save lives and protect infrastructure,” said Rep. Schiff. “We are constantly reminded of our vulnerability – with tremors, earthquakes and aftershocks rattling our homes and businesses – and even a few seconds of warning will allow people to seek cover, automatically slow or stop trains, pause surgeries and more. This first phase of funding will allow the work to begin expanding the system, and we will continue to work to secure future funding along with our other federal, state and local partners.”
“Caltech and its partners are very grateful that the House of Representatives is sending a strong signal of support for implementation of an earthquake early warning for the West Coast,” said President Thomas F. Rosenbaum of the California Institute of Technology. “We look forward to moving ahead with this critical technology over the next few years.”
In April, Rep. Schiff and 25 Members from California, Washington and Oregon sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee urging them to fully fund an earthquake early warning system. Schiff’s letter requested additional funding for the Earthquake Hazards Program in USGS to kickstart the process of building out the early warning system so we can be ready for the next big quake. In the letter sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, the Members wrote:
Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member Moran:
As you craft the Fiscal Year 2015 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, we respectfully request that you provide the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) with an additional $16.1 million for the construction, operation and maintenance of an Earthquake Early Warning System.
The USGS, in collaboration with Caltech, UC Berkeley, and the University of Washington, has developed an Earthquake Early Warning system that detects waves radiating from the epicenter of a quake and would provide people with several to tens of seconds of warning in California, and up to few minutes in Washington and Oregon through their phones, computers and other media. With advanced notice, people can take cover, automated systems can be triggered to slow down trains and manage the power grid, doctors can pause surgeries, and more. The technology has been tested and proven to work effectively.
An Earthquake Early Warning system along the West Coast would cost $16.1 million per year to construct, operate and maintain. FEMA has estimated that earthquakes cost the United States, averaged over the long term, more than $5 billion a year. This common-sense investment will save lives, protect businesses, and could make a real difference in more rapid recovery for local communities, the federal government and the economy as a whole.
While we cannot predict when and where the next major earthquake will hit, we must do all we can to prepare ourselves so that we can mitigate the injuries, destruction, and chaos as much as possible. We appreciate your consideration of our request, and we look forward to working with you.