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Earthquake Early-Warning System One Step Closer To Reality Thanks To Federal Grant

Visualizing earthquake detection during a 2008 USGS conference. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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An early-warning alert system for earthquakes, which has been under development by several major west coast universities and institutions, received a $4.9 million grant from the U.S. Geological Survey this week.

The early-warning system, dubbed "ShakeAlert", began in 2006 under USGS's Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), which was established as a national earthquake monitoring network.

Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown approved committing $10 million of state money to building out the statewide system. The state of Oregon approved $1 million for a similar purpose. In April, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to bring the system to the city by 2018. "By the end of 2018, we will deploy an earthquake early-warning system to every corner of this city — in schools, at businesses, even on your smartphone," Garcetti said in his State of the City address. "It will give you a head start when an earthquake is coming — precious seconds that save lives."

With Monday's $4.9 million grant, CalTech, along with Central Washington University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Oregon, University of Washington, University of Nevada, Reno and the governmental non-profit UNAVCO, Inc., have entered a two-year cooperative effort to transition ShakeAlert into a production system, a press release by USGS states. The USGS has committed an additional $1 million to begin purchasing sensors for the system.

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Congressman Adam Schiff stated that the new grant money "brings us one step closer to fully deploying this technology which can save lives in the event of a major earthquake," reports City News Service. "We know that it is a matter of 'when' not 'if' a major earthquake will strike the West Coast, and a fully operational early warning system will help us be ready."

In 2014, the USGS estimated ShakeAlert would cost $38.3 million to build, and $16.1 million annually to maintain.