According to the United States Geological Survey, there is about an 85 percent chance that Los Angeles will see some significant seismic activity by 2019. This is due to the fact that sections of the San Andreas Fault are long overdue for a major earthquake. As such, Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a budget that includes putting $10 million toward setting up an earthquake warning system for the state of California by 2018.
Taking Precautionary Action
The idea of having an earthquake warning system in place is hardly anything new. In fact, Mexico, China and Japan already have such systems in place. With so many other earthquake-prone places having a system in place, many are asking why the state of California does not have something similar in place.
According to reports, the US Geological Survey has been developing a similar system, but finding the funds to pay for such an endeavor has been difficult. Although the federal government has invested some funds toward the project, it has not been enough to complete it. Furthermore, California’s policy has always been not to use funds from the general fund to pay for an early warning system. Rather Governor Brown and the state legislature had maintained that the funding for such a system should come from federal and private sources. In fact, the governor even went so far as to sign a law in 2013 saying that an earthquake warning system should be created, but specifying that general fund money couldn’t be used to pay for it.
A Change of Heart
Despite his previous stance, Governor Brown has now decided to ask state legislators to set aside $10 million of the state’s budget to be used to set up an earthquake warning system. The goal is to create a system that could allow for initial alerts as soon as 2018. The coordinator of the US Geological Survey has also endorsed the governor’s decision, claiming that building out the system will be a huge boost.
According to those who are involved with the project, the warnings will likely be limited at first. Nonetheless, they could potentially have a significant impact on saving lives as alerts go to police and fire stations, schools and public places such as theme parks and malls. Ultimately, the goal is to use the early warning signs of impending seismic events to take the actions necessary to reduce the devastation by doing things such as turning off the gas moving through big pipelines or warning trains to slow down. The alerts could also eventually be sent out to people’s phones, though it is likely to take three to seven years to iron out the details of this system since the US cellphone network is not currently built to handle the transmission of mass alerts in situations where seconds are essential.
Currently, the state has 470 of the 1,115 stations necessary to complete the network necessary to take readings for the system. Most of the existing stations are in the San Francisco and Los Angeles area.
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(all data current as of 5/25/2017)
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