Report: West Coast politicians pushing for earthquake warning app

Dec 1, 2016, 10:12 AM

If and when a big one strikes the Northwest, it is expected to happen suddenly. But politicians and scientists are aiming for a smartphone system, costing millions, that will warn residents before the earthquake is even felt.

The Sacramento Bee reports that 32 House Democrats signed a letter asking the Obama administration for $16 million. The money would go toward an earthquake warning system called ShakeAlert.

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ShakeAlert would send a message to residents on the West Coast before an earthquake hits their area. The idea is similar to the Amber Alert system that sends a message to all smartphones in a specific region when a child is abducted. In this case, when an earthquake is recorded on sensors, a warning is sent out to  smartphones ahead of when the vibrations strike. That warning comes with a timer of when the shake is likely to hit. It was developed by scientists at the University of Washington, the University of Oregon, and UC-Berkeley.

Three West Coast politicians are spearheading the effort to fund the earthquake warning system. All are Democrats — Washington’s Derek Kilmer, Oregon’s Peter DeFazio, and California’s Adam Schiff.

In August, six universities from all three West Coast states received a $3.7 million USGS grant to go toward producing the ShakeAlert system.

The earthquake project for ShakeAlert is not new. It began in 2006, and politicians and scientists have been pushing for its development ever since. Estimates from the USGS put a $38.3 million price tag on fully developing and implementing the ShakeAlert system. It further estimates it would cost $16.1 million each year to operate and maintain it.

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Report: West Coast politicians pushing for earthquake warning app