Long Beach Test Site for Earthquake Early Warning System

Once it is fully developed the system could give people enough time to find safety, saving lives

Los Angeles County will be a beta site for a system that could warn people of an impending earthquake, giving them enough time to find safety.

Long Beach will be home to the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN) Earthquake Early Warning System (EEWS), developed by the United States Geological Survey and the California Institute of Technology, the city announced Thursday.

According to the CISN, warning times depend on the distance to the epicenter of the earthquake.

“We are always looking for ways to better prepare for disaster, and even a few seconds of warning before the force of an earthquake reaches us can save lives and protect property,” Mayor Bob Foster said.

The system uses existing seismic networks to detect the waves of moderate to large quakes.

Long Beach officials anticipate that the early warning system will give people the opportunity to drop and cover as well as give businesses time to close and move their workers to safety. Other benefits include giving doctors time to stop delicate procedures, allowing trains to stop or slow down, stop landing and take-offs at airports and enable emergency crews to prepare for the impending quake.

“The earthquake early warning system provides the city with another tool, in addition to CERT classes to prepare residents and all-hazards training to prepare staff, in the event of a disaster or major emergency,” Deputy City Manager Reginald Harrison said. “Once fully developed, this technology could literally save lives.”

Using the EEWS will be of no cost to the city. In return, they will provide the program’s developers with feedback so they can improve the system’s delivery mechanisms.

At this time early warning alerts are not currently part of the EEWS project, which is in its second phase. The CISN said on its website that this is because there are not enough areas in California with seismic stations and that the alerts are only useful if people know what to do with the information they receive. This will require an outreach effort that the CISN does not have enough funds to undertake.

The ultimate hope is that early warning alerts will be sent via email, radio, television, phone applications and computer-to-computer messages. Early warning systems with many of these features already exist in Mexico, Japan and Taiwan.

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