Earthquake Warning System

In California, a recent large earthquake hit and residents were able to react when an early warning system issued an alert before the quake could be felt. Washington state is also in an earthquake danger zone, but no early warning system is in place to provide extra seconds of reaction time.

The United States Geological Service and the University of Washington is developing a system that would detect earthquake early and emit a warning signal. Eventually, the developers hope their system, the Shake Alert, will be available to the general public and to corporations, but they are lacking the funding to set it up. It would take about $17 million a year to operate and Congress is not willing to fund the system. A committee is still trying to figure out where the money would come from, though some senators say it is an important issue.

The system is currently in place in Seattle, but cannot provide adequate warning yet. Developers hope to first provide the service to emergency response agencies and groups before releasing it to the public.

Shake Alert would provide 10 to 15 seconds of early warning, which could help people get to safe areas, such as a doorway or under a desk. It could also provide time to have industrial equipment do an emergency stop.

Other private companies are also developing similar systems and may try to sell the system for a cheaper price than the UW and USGS system.