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Letters: Are earthquake alerts worth it?

February 07, 2013

Re "Warning: It's a quake," Editorial, Feb. 3

One of the principal advocates for developing an early earthquake warning system, a geologist in California, once said: "Earthquakes don't kill people; buildings kill people." In light of that statement, it is disingenuous to ask for state funds to upgrade the existing California Integrated Seismic Network without addressing falling buildings.

Since the Sylmar earthquake in 1971, the state has installed large arrays of strong-motion seismic stations to study earthquake mechanisms and characteristics. But the fact is that the shorter the distance from an active fault, the shorter the arrival time of the seismic waves, and over the last few decades, large population centers have been formed close to major onshore active faults. As such, the proposed earthquake warning system would be mostly ineffective.

As an earthquake engineer, it is my professional opinion that funding such unproven systems would be a waste of scarce funds.

Jack Yaghoubian

Toluca Lake

Last weekend I received a text message from my son, who lives in Sapporo, Japan. A strong earthquake with an epicenter about 125 miles from his home had struck.

As The Times notes, Japan has an excellent early warning system, so my son had more than a minute before the shaking came through his area. Those seconds provided time for him to take potentially lifesaving steps.

California needs to provide such protection. The cost involved would be offset by the expenses saved after a disaster.

John M. McKee

Thousand Oaks


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