House puts first money into earthquake early warning system; hurdles remain

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The House okayed a down payment on an earthquake early warning system.   If and when it's up and running, the Earthquake Early Warning System could send a message toy our smartphone or laptop or interrupt your TV show.  Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of Burbank says it would pay for itself after just one earthquake. "If you can stop a train," he says, "if you can stop a surgery, you can give people a chance to get to a safe place, all of this would be extraordinarily valuable."

Schiff led a group of more than two dozen members from west coast states asking for $16 million to build and operate the system.  The full cost is an estimated $38-million to build and $16-million a year to operate.  The House Appropriations Committee voted to include $5 million of that in the budget for the U.S. Geological Survey, part of the Interior Department.  That's enough to purchase and install additional sensors and hire new staff members.  

The Senate has not yet acted on its version of the spending bill.   Next year's federal fiscal year begins October 1st.  

Caltech, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Washington, and the United States Geological Survey have already started on a pilot project to prove that the technology is sound. 

Thomas Rosenbaum, president of the California Institute of Technology says Caltech and its partners are grateful for the "strong signal of support." Schiff says additional funding is expected from California, Washington, and Oregon. If the money is approved, the warning system up and running by 2016. 

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