$8.2 Million Approved For Earthquake Early Warning System In California

Congress has approved $8.2 million for an early warning system that will give a few seconds or more of notice before an earthquake hits the West Coast.

Funding for the West Coast Earthquake Warning System was approved on Friday, and tops the $6.5 million that was approved for the same program last year, reports NBC LA. The system, currently in the testing phase, will use sensors that relay information about the location and strength of seismic activity, in order to give even a small amount of advance warning to help the public, emergency responders, medical facilities and critical infrastructures prepare for a strong quake. The amount also exceeds the $5 million that President Barack Obama proposed for the state's 2016 budget.

“The early warning system will give us critical time for trains to be slowed and surgeries to be stopped before shaking hits, saving lives and protecting infrastructure,” Representative Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, tells CBS LA. “This early warning system is an investment we need to make now, not after the ‘big one’ hits.”

The U.S. Geological Survey is working with Caltech, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon to develop the system. Ultimately, the early warning system is expected to cost $38.2 million to build, and the annual operating costs are estimated to be $16.1 million, according to officials.

The newly approved funding is part of a $60.5 million bill to address “earthquake hazards,” with the $8.2 million portion used "to transition the earthquake early warning demonstration project into an operational capability for the West Coast."

A demo early warning system called ShakeAlert was launched in January 2012, which sends test notifications to select California residents. The system utilizes 400 ground motion sensors and users will get an onscreen alerts indicating how long before they will feel the quake, as well as its epicenter and magnitude.

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