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Early Warning System For California Earthquakes Moving Forward

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

The Napa Courthouse on the morning after last month's 6.0 earthquake

Bob Moffitt / Capital Public Radio

It detected last month’s Napa Quake a few seconds before the ground shook – but California’s earthquake early warning system wasn’t equipped to alert the general public in time. A
conference Wednesday at UC Berkeley looked at how to broaden the system’s reach.

Bay Area Rapid Transit trains weren’t running at 3 a.m. on the Sunday morning the Napa Quake struck. But if they were, they would have automatically slowed or stopped. That’s because BART is connected to California’s fledgling earthquake early warning system. UC Berkeley Seismologist Richard Allen leads the program. He says the next step is for the private sector to take those early earthquake alerts – and send them to the public.

“There’ll be a plethora of apps you can download for your cell phone. You’ll be able to buy devices to put in your homes like smoke detectors. It’ll go out over TV, radio stations in an automated way. So there’ll be many ways you can receive the warning,” Allen says.

Allen says the private companies would pay for the earthquake early warning data – and that money would be combined with federal and state funds to build the infrastructure necessary to expand the system.

California faces a January 2016 deadline to find the money to pay for that expansion.