Over the past few years, there has been heated debate over whether federal or state funds should be invested into an earthquake alert system for Los Angeles County and surrounding earthquake-prone areas. With arguments ranging from the safety of residents, to the high price tag, to the possible flaws that might lead to false alarms, there are many opinions about this project. Many of the more recent projections show that this system could help save thousands of lives in the event of a major earthquake.

The Debate Surrounding the Earthquake Warning System

Despite the fact that scientists see the San Andreas Fault as a ticking time bomb, California Governor Jerry Brown has historically refused to ask the government for funding for the system. However, in recent months, significant progress was made when Governor Brown asked the state legislature for $10 million to get the program off the ground. Of the $10 million, $6.875 million will be allocated to the physical equipment and the installation of the system and $2.241 million will be used to educate the public on how to respond to the alerts, with the rest going to staffing and other future costs. There continues to be debate whether the federal government should supply any funds, as well as who will pay for the upkeep of the system once it is in place.

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How Would the Earthquake Warning System Work?

The alert system would be used to sound alarms in public places like shopping malls, offices, government buildings, hospitals and classrooms. Early warning signals can also do important things like stop moving trains, open elevator doors, alert drivers and put in place many other important preventative measures. The idea is that this system would give residents and emergency responders a few important seconds of warning before the quake begins (eventually the system may be developed to give as much as a minute’s warning).

Developers of the system are hopeful that in time they can rollout prompt warnings on cellphones and mobile devices. That kind of system is entirely possible; it will require collaboration between the systems developers and various cell-network providers.

How Much Notice Would the Earthquake Warning System Give Residents?

Initially the program will give a few seconds of warning before the quake begins. This will give drivers time to slow their vehicles and people time to find a safer spot to shelter. As the systems development becomes more sophisticated, the alerts might sound as much as a minute or more before quaking begins. These valuable seconds and minutes allow Los Angeles residents and visitors to move out of harm’s way in case of an earthquake.

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(all data current as of 10/17/2017)

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