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State Senator Alex Padilla proposes California earthquake early warning system

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Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

Wu Yi-min, a professor at the National Taiwan University, describes how Taiwan's earthquake early warning system works.

Southern Californians would have precious seconds to prepare for a major earthquake under a new proposal to create a statewide early warning system.

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) joined with seismologists Monday in announcing legislation to create the system at the Seismological Laboratory at California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

The U.S. has been testing warning systems for several years but lags behind countries such as Japan and Mexico in implementing the technology to warn the public.

"This morning I introduced legislation to create a statewide earthquake early warning system," Padilla said Monday morning, according to his website. "California is going to have an earthquake early warning system, the question is whether we have one before or after the next big quake."

Such systems are designed to detect the first pulses of energy from an earthquake, estimate its magnitude and send alerts before damaging seismic waves spread widely.

Warning times would range from a few seconds to tens of seconds – enough time for people to take cover or begin shutting down systems that could be damaged by severe shaking.

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