Early Earthquake Warning System


On Tuesday, Rep. Adam Schiff 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 the  University of Washington, in conjunction with the United States 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.

There are already seismometers in place, but they are of different ages, said Hall Daily, director of government relations at Caltech.

“The current [seismic] networks supply data, and that data would be used for a warning system,” said Daily. These appropriation bill funds, Daily added, will be used to upgrade the older technology in place and hire more people to develop algorithms to analyze the data coming from the network.

Schiff’s 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 Cal Tech.

Once fully active, the EEW system will provide seconds to minutes of warning, with longer warnings generated the further away from the epicenter residents are.

Daily added, “La Crescenta/Montrose, for example in the La Habra quake this spring, they would have received at least four seconds of warning.”

Hopefully enough time to get under cover before shaking starts.