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Earthquake Alerts Could Begin Within 2 Years

raybouk / Flickr

raybouk / Flickr

Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill creating a program for a statewide earthquake early warning system in California.

State Senator Jerry Hill authored the legislation. He says alerts can trigger other systems to shut or slow down to reduce injury or damage during a big earthquake.

"If I'm getting eye surgery that ophthalmologist that has that laser in my eye, that he'll be able to take that out before that shaking starts," Hill says. "That fire station with the doors can come up before the shaking hits ... so the trucks and engines can get out ... the BART trains that can stop, the Caltrain that can stop ... all of these things are phenomenal," 

The system works by detecting initial shock waves and sending urgent alerts before the shaking gets to a location. State emergency officials say the warning system could begin within two years.

Mark Ghilarducci of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services says the automatic alerts that will warn people through their cell phones, radios and other devices.

Ghilarducci spoke hours after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation to implement the program. The Democratic governor earlier this year approved $10 million for the program as part of the state budget.

Doug Given, with the U.S. Geological Survey, says technology will allow a person to receive alerts depending on how far away they are from the epicenter. 

"In general terms, all we can say is you’ll get no warning in the worst case, to seconds to tens of seconds, and in the case of very large earthquakes, like an extremely large southern San Andreas, northern San Andreas  or even the Cascadia offshore event, minutes is actually possible," says Given. 

Early warning systems for earthquakes are in place in Mexico, China and Japan. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Marnette Federis

Former Digital News Editor

Marnette Federis was a digital news editor at Capital Public Radio. Her journalism experiences include stints as a reporter, videographer and Web producer at traditional print outlets, digital-only publications and a television station.  Read Full Bio 

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