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California needs its quake warning system -- now

March 13, 2013|By Paul Whitefield
  • Anza, where Monday's quake hit, is no stranger to temblors. A shaker in 2005 knocked a mule deer head off this man's wall.
Anza, where Monday's quake hit, is no stranger to temblors. A shaker… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Well, what do you know, we had a quake, and we had a warning too.

As my colleague Joseph Serna reported Wednesday: 

An earthquake early warning system being tested in California gave seismologists in Pasadena up to 30 seconds to prepare for Monday morning’s temblor in the desert of Riverside County.

“It was right,” said Kate Hutton, a seismologist with Caltech. “I sat really still to see if I could feel it and it worked.”

Hopefully, Hutton was saying that without surprise in her voice.

In January, I wrote in praise of the Early Earthquake Warning project, which is designed to give those of us in quake-prone areas a timely heads-up when a temblor strikes. Which is what happened when the magnitude 4.7 shaker hit near Anza on Monday.

Now all we need is to come up with the estimated $80 million to build a fully functioning system. And with Monday’s shaker and its swarm of aftershocks fresh in our minds, isn’t this a good time to get serious about building the darn thing?

Sure, 30 seconds of warning doesn’t sound like much. But if you’ve ever been in a quake, you know that seconds seem like hours. And so 30 seconds or so is plenty of time to perhaps seek shelter under a desk, or to get outside, or to shut down crucial equipment.

The next big earthquake in California will undoubtedly cause billions in damage and take many lives. 

Put that way, doesn’t $80 million seem a pretty cheap way to protect some equipment and, more important, save some lives?

We have the means. We just need the money. Let's not be cheap.


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