California Expected to Roll Out Public Earthquake Warning System Next Year

Scott Whitlock walks over a stretch of buckled sidewalk while helping his parents move out of their damaged home after an earthquake struck the Napa area in 2014. (Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

California will likely roll out a limited public earthquake early warning system sometime next year, researchers building the network say.

New earthquake sensing stations are being installed in the ground, software is being improved, and operators are being hired to make sure the system is properly staffed, Caltech seismologist Egill Hauksson said at a joint meeting of the Japan Geoscience Union and American Geophysical Union.

‘Rapid expansion’

The new sensor stations are particularly important for rural Northern California, where gaps in the network have put San Francisco at risk for a slower alert if an earthquake begins on the San Andreas fault near the Oregon border and barrels down to the city. Last summer, California lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown approved $10 million for the earthquake early warning system.

“We’re starting to add additional stations very rapidly. The contracts are now being signed for the state funding, which is largely being spent on putting out new stations,” said Richard Allen, director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory. “They’re going to come online in the next year or so, so there will be pretty rapid expansion of the seismic network over the course of the next six months to two years.”

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