What if you could be alerted before the only natural disaster that offers no warning actually hits? Even if the alert came just seconds sooner? In light of the massive earthquake in Japan last month, West Coast seismologists are urging for a speedier warning system to be developed.
The discussion happened at a closed-door summit at UC Berkeley involving leading quake experts and industry representatives who have come to the consensus that early warning technology is mature enough for quake-prone states on the West Coast -- California, Oregon and Washington.
“A robust early warning system could be operating within five years in California, at a potential cost of $80 million over five years,” said organizer Richard Allen, associate director of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and associate professor of earth and planetary sciences. A simpler system could be put into operation even sooner, he added.
During the recent disaster in Japan, an earthquake warning was sent out to millions of people across the country a full ten seconds before the initial jolt. It was the biggest test yet of the country's $1 billion earthquake early-warning system, and seismologists whoa re working to copy the system in the U.S. say it worked.
“Japan’s earthquake early warning system undoubtedly saved thousands of lives, and will reduce the long-term impact of the earthquake on the economy,” said Allen, who has been working for nearly a decade to develop and test an earthquake early warning system in the United States. “A similar system in California could provide as much as a minute warning – and in Washington, as much as two-to-three minutes’ warning – so that some actions, many of them automated, can be taken before the destructive waves (of shaking) arrive.”
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