Earthquake early warning system for California still in development

System would send alerts to cellphones

SAN DIEGO - Timely earthquake warnings could provide life-saving seconds -- seconds that will allow the public and first responders time they need to take protective action.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to mandate an earthquake early warning system be developed and launched by 2016 for California.

"CISN (California Integrated Seismic Network) is partnering with Cal OES, USGS, Caltech and UC Berkeley and other various government agencies to use information from the seismic sensors across the state and the technology already in use to develop the Earthquake Early Warning System, or EEWS," Stephen Rea of the Office of Emergency Services told 10News.

Still in the beginning stages of development, the system was tested most recently when the earth began to shake near the Bay Area early Sunday morning. Seismologists at UC Berkley got a 10-second warning before the rumbles were felt there.

"It did provide a 10-second warning to the Napa-area earthquake so it definitely proved itself," said Rea "With a big earthquake, say along the San Andreas Fault, it may give up to 40 or 50 seconds for the LA-area to prepare for that earthquake," said Rea.

To make the system a success, the warnings depend on the development of several units, like a network seismic sensors spaced 12 miles apart across the state, quick telecommunication sensors to shut down elevators, utilities and trains and reliable mass notifications like Amber Alerts.

"The alerts would go straight to everyone's cellphones; they wouldn't have to worry about registering for something. The alert would just go straight to the phone as soon as the system senses an earthquake," said Rea.

The project currently has $15 million in funding but needs nearly $80 million in equipment, software and seismic infrastructure upgrades before it can be launched.

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