Despite False Alarms, California’s New Earthquake Early Warning System Is Worth Using

Posted February 28, 2019, under Blog

In a new study from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey and Caltech, researchers found that despite accuracy limits with California’s new earthquake early warning system it’s better to be safe than sorry – meaning, sending people false alarms is better than sending no warning at all.

In the new data, scientists simulated millions of different earthquake scenarios in California and how a warning system in each situation played into the safety of residents. They compared the predictions of the shaking from their early earthquake warning system with how the quakes may actually feel to residents in various areas.

After analyzing their findings from these millions of different earthquake situations they came to two conclusions. First, there is no way to have an early earthquake warning system that is 100% accurate and second, they found that any location in California – on average – can feel the shaking from an earthquake only two times every 10 years.

Using basic mathematics researchers found that there would be roughly four warnings that would turn out to be false twice in a decade’s span.

“It’s a small price to pay,” research geophysicist Sarah Minson told the L.A. Times. “if you’re talking about something where there’s a lot of benefit to be had.”

Some of those benefits would be in situations where early earthquake warning alerts notified public transportation systems like trains to slow before the intense shaking from an earthquake is predicted to hit. Thus the advantage of keeping commuters safe, greatly outweighs the inconveniences of slowing them down.

There are countless benefits to getting these early earthquake notifications. They’ll help doctors put down their scalpels, students duck and cover, people exit elevators and so forth. That’s because these early notification systems allow everyone get ahead of a major earthquake since modern communication systems travel faster than the shaking of an earthquake – which travels at the speed of sound through rock.

While there is still work to be done, the USGS is hoping that by 2021 all of their 1,115 seismic sensors will be installed throughout California.

For now, Los Angeles recently released their new app for iOs and Androids called ShakeAlertLa, which will send warnings to devices with the app when shaking is predicted to occur.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to be proactive about earthquake preparation and safety.

Julian De La Torre is an expert in Los Angeles foundation inspection, foundation contractors and foundation repair. Julian’s company, Julian Construction, has inspected over 15,000 structures, working with engineering firms and local departments of building & safety. The company has done more foundation repair in Los Angeles than any other company in the area over the last five years.

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