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Earthquake warning system expanding across SoCal

Posted at 6:36 PM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 21:36:47-04

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. (KGTV) - When an earthquake strikes seconds of warning can save lives. That's why, for decades, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has been working with partners to create a warning system to do just that.

"Eventually we would like to have something like an Amber Alert where you would get a text message that says shaking is about to occur in your area in a few seconds," said Alex Cadiao, a USGS Field Engineer.

He's part of a small team which travels to remote parts of the state to install earthquake sensors into the ground. They provided 10News exclusive access to the region's newest sensor in Orange County.

RELATED: 'ShakeAlert' message buzzes San Diego County phones

"Ultimately we just want a grid across the whole state," said Christopher Bruton, Research Engineer at Caltech's Seismological Laboratory.

There are 45 sensors throughout San Diego County, and dozens more are planned for the rest of Southern California.

"The more sensors we have, the better the data, the greater coverage we have and better the quality, and faster response time of these stations," said Cadiao.

The sensors work by detecting the initial, less-destructive waves of an earthquake, alerting people shaking is coming and to take cover.

Seconds of warning can be critical for surgeons in the operating room, halting trains, or shutting off gas lines.

The City of Los Angeles currently has the ShakeAlert app available to people in the city; the hope is that technology will eventually work statewide.

"I get a lot of gratification knowing one day this will help save a lot of lives," said Cadiao.

The engineers say it will likely be a few more years until all of Southern California will get ShakeAlert warnings on their cell phones. It's being tested in small groups, but they want to make sure the technology is reliable before making it available to everyone.