USGS scientists said earthquake early warning systems, already successfully deployed in Mexico, Japan and Taiwan, can detect an earthquake in progress and provide notice of seconds to tens of seconds prior to actual ground shaking.
After a three-year USGS-funded earthquake early warning study was completed in August, a second USGS-funded project was launched to integrate the previously tested methods into a single prototype warning system. When completed, the pilot system -- called the California Integrated Seismic Network ShakeAlert System -- will provide warning to a small group of test users, including emergency response groups, utilities, and transportation agencies.
While in the testing phase, the system will not provide public alerts.
The USGS said its ShakeAlert system will detect strong shaking at an earthquake's epicenter and transmit alerts ahead of the damaging earthquake waves. Potential applications include stopping elevators at the nearest floor, slowing or halting trains, monitoring critical systems and alerting people to move to safer locations.
In warning systems deployed abroad, alerts are distributed via TV and radio networks, the Internet, cell phones and pagers.
The research is being presented in San Francisco this week during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union.