First Public Test of Earthquake Alert System Rolls Out at L.A. School

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In a major sign that California's earthquake early warning system is moving forward, officials announced Friday that Eagle Rock High School will provide the first classrooms to test the program developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and a team of scientists.

This marks the first time officials have tried the system with the general public. Until recently, only academics, select government agencies and a few private firms have received the alerts.

"This is really about helping us understand what works, what doesn't," USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said Friday to a classroom filled with excited students, school board members and city officials. "By putting it in with ordinary people — with not geeks, not Caltech — we can start seeing … how people hear the information, how they process it, how they make decisions."

Scientists now have enough ground sensors in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas to broaden their pilot programs. They emphasized that the system, known as ShakeAlert, is far from perfected, but said expanded access will help identify problems and fine-tune its usability.

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