Budgetary Considerations Threaten California's Earthquake Warning System

The recent earthquake off the coast of Mexico has proven the effectiveness of the nation's seismic detection system. Unfortunately, no such large-scale system exists in Mexico's neighbor to the north, even in the earthquake-prone state of California. This shortcoming is related more to budgetary considerations than available technology.
A warning system that could benefit California and other Western states has actually been under development for years. Its end could come through the actions of President Donald Trump, who wants to reduce government spending, and members of the U.S. Congress, who have expressed their desire to achieve a balanced federal budget within 10 years. Proposed reductions in funding for the earthquake detection system has drawn criticism from both Democratic and Republican legislators and, if carried out, will go contrary to the actions of a congressional committee. More about the funding issue is available at www//latimes.com/world/la-me-mexico-quake-warning-20170908-htmlstory.html.
The system proposed in California would employ sensors that can detect ground shaking and send the information at the speed of light to surrounding areas. The detection of an earthquake occurring along the portion of the San Andreas fault, near the Salton Sea, could provide a warning of more than a minute to the metropolis in Southern California. Related mechanisms would then stop and open the doors of elevators at the nearest floors, allowing the occupants to escape, and turn off the flow of natural gas in large pipes, possibly preventing fires. In terms of warnings to individuals, the system could alert doctors who were in the process of performing delicate procedures.
The system available in Mexico has worked in several recent earthquakes. In the most recent temblor, those outside the immediate area were warned anywhere from a few seconds to a full minute before the shaking reached them, giving them time to seek shelter or take other precautions. The system in use in Japan gave the residents of Tokyo time to prepare for the massive earthquake that jolted the country in 2011.
Limited earthquake warning technology is already available in California. Some buildings are equipped with earthquake alarms designed to alert workers and other occupants, and a limited system gave San Francisco a warning of eight seconds during the 2014 temblor that shook the Napa Valley region.


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