VIDEO: Earthquake alert system gets closer to going public

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — In order to keep people safe, geologists are working on an earthquake warning system, known as “Shake Alert.”

After years of development, the system is getting close to going public.

The “Shake Alert” system is a network of seismic sensors that can provide a few seconds of warning in the event of an earthquake. That might not sound like much time but it could be enough to stop a train, pause a surgery, or slow down a car.

Right now the shake alert system is at what’s called a production prototype level meaning only a handful of pilot groups including schools, fire departments, police departments and transit agencies actually receive the alerts.

But thanks to a $10 million dollar funding boost from the state of California, shake alert is expanding. Earlier this month, both Oregon and Washington states were added to the project.”

“We have now integrated the entire Pacific Northwest into a single production level system for the entire west coast of the United States,” Jennifer Strauss said.

If all goes well, the public could start receiving earthquake alerts as early as next year albeit in a limited capacity.

“That’s doesn’t mean everyone on the west coast would get it in 2018 and the reason is that our system isn’t fully built out,” Strauss said. “The public alerts could only happen in places where we have good station density and good pilots in place to make the system work.”

The biggest challenge keeping the system from expanding faster is funding. usgs estimates it will cost 38 million to build the shakealert network and 16 million per year to operate it.

“We are about half way there in terms of annual funding that’s needed to keep the network up and that meshes with the fact that we have about half of the system built out at this point.”

In the meantime, experts are reminding people to always be prepared for earthquakes.

“Drop, cover and hold on. And make sure you have an earthquake kit prepared,” Strauss said.

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