Sustainability Problem: how to reduce the catastrophic damage and deaths caused by earthquakes
It is only a matter of time when the next major earthquake will hit the west coast U.S.. The USGS estimates that within the next 30 years, California has a 99.7% chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake, while the Pacific Northwest has a 10% chance of a catastrophic 8 to 9 magnitude earthquake.
- Earthquake early warning (EEW) system uses earthquake science and the technology of monitoring systems to alert devices and people when shaking waves generated by an earthquake are expected to arrive at their location. The seconds to minutes of advance warning can allow people to avert catastrophic damage and deaths: trains and planes can come to a stop, cars can be blocked from bridges and tunnels, dangerous industrial systems can be automatically shut down while people can seek cover.
- Several earthquake-prone countries, such as Mexico, Japan, Italy and China, have built functional EEW systems. During the most recent magnitude-7.1 quake on Sept. 19 in Mexico City, the EEW system successfully sent out early warnings and reduced tragedies. The SASMEX alert system collecting data from sensors along Mexico’s western coast gave residents more than a minute’s warning from sirens and even news reports on radio and TV. There is also a free smartphone app used by millions of Mexicans.
- The U.S. is behind the curve with a partially built system for California. A pilot EEW system called ShakeAlert has began sending test notifications to selected users in California since 2012. Despite the success of trail runs, the system is still not available to the wide public. The program costs $16 million to build and operate per year, but the USGS has only been given $10 million each year. Worse yet, it is being eliminated in the proposed budget by the new administration.
Organizational Stakeholders that Will Use the Technology:
- USGS (United States Geological Survey)
- City governments, schools, transit systems, utility companies
- General public
First 3 Steps in Deploying the Technology:
- Secure financing for the technology from various sources, including private fundings, grants and public crowdsourcing
- Finish installing all the sensors and build effective communication channels, e.g. cellphone Apps
- Introduce ShakeAlert to the general public with test runs