Earthquake early warning

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Press Release:

The only tested and proven early earthquake warning system partners with Governor Brown and automates life saving procedures in California.

LOS ANGELES, MAY 29, 2015 — As millions of Americans go to the movies this weekend to see the destruction in the wake of a Magnitude 9 earthquake, Californians can be reassured that technology exists to warn them before the big one hits. So powerful, so destructive and until now so unpredictable.

No one can predict earthquakes but with science and technology people can be given enough warning before the tremors begin. Seismic Warning System (SWS) in Scotts Valley, CA is already providing warnings for many and is ready to answer Governor Brown’s call for a statewide earthquake early warning system for California. SWS is the only system that detects and measures the earliest seismic waves and response under a half a second with no history of false alarms in 14 years.

Seismologists have been recording earthquake data for decades and what SWS is doing is building a state of the art, purpose-driven earthquake warning network so they can get the data before the tremors arrive and help people use this information, automatically, in a variety of ways most notably in the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs area).

“It’s really quick so in 700 milliseconds we’re taking action getting information out,” says George Dickerson, CEO Seismic Warning Systems, “We’ve not only designed a system that analyzes the P-wave faster than anybody on the planet, but we beat that damaging wave to the surface and that is the secret of early warning.”

“We have 17 SWS systems; 15 of them are in fire stations and two of them are with the SunLine transit agency. It really works and we know it works so it’s kind of routine,” says Blake Goetz, Retired Fire Chief for the City of Palm Springs.

Automating these warnings across different industries is the most efficient as the warning times vary from a few seconds up to 30 seconds or more, but any advance warning can make a really big difference in how people can respond to a serious earthquake.

Screen shot from the film, “San Andreas.”
Screen shot from the film, “San Andreas.”

In countries such as Japan that have adopted early warning systems we see a host of automatic actions that have saved them a great deal of money in manufacturing procedures. A train moving at speed during an earthquake will be derailed. If it’s stopped it rolls back and forth. Elevators can be stopped to prevent cars being stuck between floors. It will save lives in medical industry, giving time for a surgeon to pull a scalpel out of your chest or even have the dentist pull the drill out of your mouth.

The amount of advanced warning will vary for many reasons such as distance from the epicenter, similarly to the way one watches a flash of lightning and counts the seconds to hear thunder. An earthquake’s waves travel at the speed of sound and SWS can send information at the speed of light, which is quicker. Therefore the farther away the more warning time one might have with less damage.

The reality is that the San Andreas is one the most seismically active, dangerous fault zones in the world. A really big earthquake happens on a really long fault and that is what determines the magnitude of an earthquake.
In Southern California, when we worry about the 7.8 the really big earthquake on the San Andreas for Los Angeles that earthquake will take a hundred seconds to happen because the rupture has to start at one point and move 200 miles down the fault and then the waves travel from the fault to Los Angeles.

In the situation of a bad San Andreas earthquake,e with luck it would start at the southern end and move towards L.A. It would cause strong shaking here, but with SWS we would potentially have over 60 seconds warning in the Los Angeles area.

The Governor’s office of Emergency Services is leading the coordination to create the most reliable and robust earthquake warning system ever developed and SWS is contributing to this process with cutting edge, commercially viable solutions. With passage of Senate Bill 135, which also calls for forming a public-private partnership, the time is right for an accurate, affordable and available solution.

It’s not a question of “if” the big one comes it’s obviously “when.” We’re obviously not stopping plate tectonics along the San Andreas. Historically it averages 150 years between major events here on either end of the fault and in the southern part it’s been over 300 years.

SWS has begun an initiative to place a warning system in every public school in the state of California.

Seismic Warning Systems