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Long Beach to Test Early Earthquake Detection System

When a temblor's on the way, you may know about it first.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

Originally posted at 10:51 a.m. April 24, 2014. Edited to add new details.

A city official said today that Long Beach's selection by Caltech and the U.S. Geological Survey to serve as a test site for an earthquake early warning system could help save lives.

The California Integrated Seismic Network Earthquake Early Warning System uses existing seismic networks to detect temblors in order to send out a warning before destructive seismic waves reach areas outside of the epicenter.

"The earthquake early warning system provides the city with another tool, in addition to CERT classes to prepare residents and all-hazards training to prepare staff, in the event of a disaster or major emergency," Deputy City Manager Reginald Harrison said. "Once fully developed, this technology could literally save lives."

The warnings are meant to give people time to protect themselves, medical professionals time to pause surgeries and other procedures, transportation officials to slow down trains, emergency responders to open fire station doors and for elevator doors to open.

Long Beach is also home to a major port and airport, Harrison said.

"Our ultimate goal, what we would like to see, is that all residents are able to receive some warning, seconds, minutes on a smart phone or other device to give them an opportunity to better prepare themselves and their families," Harrison said.

Departments within the city of Long Beach have been selected to test the system and give feedback, according to Harrison. The testing, which will be at no cost to the city, will give the program's developers information to fine- tune the system, he said.

Earthquake early warning systems can provide between two to 10 seconds of advance warning to areas outside of the epicenter, according to the California Integrated Seismic Network.

Harrison said the early warning alone will not prevent injury.

"Warning will not protect falling debris from hitting you," Harrison said. "You really need to duck, cover and hold."

Early warning systems are operating in Mexico, Taiwan and Japan.

--City News Service


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