Earthquake Early Warning System to Become Reality


Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) announced that Congress has included $5 million in FY 2015 funding bill, also known as the CROmnibus, for a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System, the first time Congress has ever provided funding specifically for the 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, build new stations, speed up the ShakeAlert system, and come closer to deploying comprehensive early earthquake warning coverage throughout earthquake prone regions of the West Coast.

“An earthquake early-warning system is essential to save lives, reduce property damage and protect critical infrastructure. This five million dollar federal investment is a down payment on building an integrated, state-wide system,” said Senator Feinstein. “These federal dollars are sorely needed, but more funding is still necessary to complete the system. While the state and private sector must contribute their fair share, I will continue to work with West Coast senators and representatives to prioritize federal funds for this life-saving project. We must get it done before the next major earthquake strikes.”

“It’s absolutely critical that the West Coast implement and build out an earthquake early warning system to give us a heads up before the ‘big one’ hits, so we can save lives and protect infrastructure,” said Congressman Schiff. “This funding will help build out additional stations, speed up the ShakeAlert system, and make it more reliable in our highest priority areas – including Los Angeles and the Bay Area – and those critical few seconds or a minute of warning will allow people to seek cover, automatically slow or stop trains, and pause surgeries. 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.”

“We at Caltech applaud Congress for approving the impactful initial funding for an earthquake early warning system,” said Thomas F. Rosenbaum, president of the California Institute of Technology. “This vital step toward implementation wouldn’t be possible without the leadership of the California congressional delegation.”

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. 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.  The letter can be found here. Senator Feinstein was critical in securing the language in the Senate Appropriations bill.

The text in the bill reads:

Funding for Natural Hazards programs includes $59,503,000 for earthquake hazards, of which $5,000,000 is provided to transition the earthquake early warning demonstration project into an operational capability on the West Coast. A critical component of the earthquake early warning system is maintaining the existing real-time broadband and strong motion seismic networks along with geodetic monitoring networks. As the earthquake early warning system is developed, USGS is directed to collaborate with universities, companies and other Federal agencies with expertise and existing digital seismic observing networks to continue precise observation of critical fault locations.

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