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California Legislature Passes Bill To Develop Earthquake Early Warning System

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AP Photo

The bill advanced in Thursday's last hours of the legislative session and was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Oct. 13 to act on it.

The U.S. has lagged behind other countries in creating a public alert system, which provides seconds of warning after a fault ruptures. For the past several years, the U.S. Geological Survey and several universities have been fine-tuning a test alert system that only broadcasts warnings to select users.

Scientists and public safety officials have urged for the creation of a system that would use a network of sensors to detect the start of a quake, the strength and provide useful seconds of warning.

While a few seconds may not sound like much time, supporters say it's enough notice for trains to slow down, utilities to shut off gas lines or people to duck under a table to ride out the shaking.

Early warning can't predict earthquakes before they happen and is useless at the quake's origin since there's no time to detect passing waves.

Researchers previously estimated it would cost about $80 million to build a statewide alert system. The bill would require state emergency officials to determine how to fund the system by 2016.

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About The Author

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Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at zoe@talkingpointsmemo.com.

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