West Coast lawmakers seek funding for quake alert

81408 full
81408 full

Two dozen U.S. lawmakers from California, Washington and Oregon are calling for funding of an earthquake warning system designed to give residents a few seconds of notice of imminent shaking after a quake occurs.

RELATED: 5.1 earthquake strikes near La Habra, Calif. (updated)

An alert system exists in Japan, Mexico and several other earthquake-prone countries.

The West Coast representatives sent a letter Thursday to the House Appropriations Committee calling for $30 million a year to build - and $16 million a year afterwards to maintain and operate - an alert system.

RELATED: Orange County officials mull applying for earthquake aid

The move comes days after a magnitude-5.1 quake centered in La Habra rattled the greater Los Angeles region Friday. The shaking caused scattered damage, but no serious injuries. 

Researchers at Pasadena's CalTech say a prototype of the warning system provided about 4 seconds advanced notice the rumbling reached them.

Representative Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, was in DC when that temblor struck, so he didn't feel it.

"But I know some of my colleagues who will be voting on this did, and I hope it's the jolt they need to get behind this proposal," Schiff told KPCC.

All of the representatives who signed Thursday's letter are Democrats, but Schiff said he expects more Republicans to support the measure once they see proof of the system's capabilities.

"I think that it will just require some further education of the members, but I am confident that we will have bipartisan support for this," Schiff said.

The current prototype system is run by CalTech, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington and the US Geological Survey.

It relies on a series of expensive and high-tech sensors placed around the state. When these sensors feel a strong jolt, they send a warning out faster than the shaking travels through the ground.

Depending on how far away the quake is, the system could give up to a minute of warning. If the epicenter is close by it may only provide a few seconds to drop and cover.

Currently the system is running on a shoe string budget.

Last year, California State Senator Alex Padilla helped pass a bill asking the state to find funding for the system.

It requires the California Office of Emergency Services to look for a way to expand the system without using general funds, though private and federal dollars are allowed.

blog comments powered by Disqus