New Earthquake Warning System Expected to Bring False Alarms and Missed Alerts

Sixth-graders take cover under their desks at the beginning of an earthquake drill at Pasadena Christian School in 2014. (Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Sixth-graders take cover under their desks at the beginning of an earthquake drill at Pasadena Christian School in 2014. (Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

In a land where the mildest rumble elicits an anxious question — “Did you feel that?” — having even a few seconds of warning before an earthquake has long been a dream.

Now, California is getting closer to what scientists say will be the world’s most sophisticated earthquake warning system, with officials this week announcing they were expanding the test program in the coming months in advance of a future public rollout. Even a warning time of a few seconds can save lives, allowing utilities to turn off large high-pressure fuel lines, doctors to stop surgeries, transit agencies to slow trains and schoolchildren to shelter under desks.

But the new system is expected to bring its own questions and frustrations.

As residents of Japan, Mexico and other places that already have the alerts have learned, the system comes with false alarms and missed warnings. There are also concerns that the wireless phone networks are too slow to send out alerts to the public before shaking is felt.

Read the full story on LATimes.com