Current Status

Since 2008, the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program has supported research and development on earthquake early warning in partnership with Caltech, University of California Berkeley, and others, with goals to develop methods that would allow rapid detection of earthquakes in the western United States, to test and improve those methods using the California Integrated Seismic Network (CISN), to define the network improvements that would be needed to support a fully operational system, and to build a prototype system capable of providing early warnings to certain test users. Continued funding of and by the USGS complements funding from a private foundation recently awarded to the academic institutions (partners in the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) for research on and development of EEW components. This increase is part of an $8.6 million initiative to improve USGS disaster response capabilities through preparedness and robust monitoring.

The earthquake early warning system under development leverages federal and state investments already made in the ANSS that monitors earthquake activity in the US. By utilizing an existing, active seismic network, the early warning system can be tested and monitored daily through existing operations. Any infrastructure improvements required for EEW will also result in improved information for emergency response and aftershock forecasting. For instance, in 2011, upgrades to stations across California have been completed to reduce latencies in packaging and sending ground motion observations useful for EEW.

Testing the current system

As part of the collaboration with our university partners, the USGS is currently working with a group of trusted partners to determine real-world performance of ShakeAlert™, the prototype notification system that delivers the earthquake warnings, as well as document feedback for research and development by identifying the following:

  • Industry-by-industry assessment of uses for early warning
  • Cost-benefit analyses in the context of shaking risk
  • Potential limitations of system
  • Cost to the business or individual to implement ShakeAlert™

Beta Test User Group participants in Northern and Southern California have been selected using following criteria:

  • User group must be pre-identified organizations that will be key users of early warning and able to provide the time, manpower and equipment necessary to perform the necessary tests of ShakeAlert™ and provide quality feedback regarding the operation, usage and delivery mechanism of the system. Beta Test Users need to utilize ShakeAlert™ in their daily operations.
  • Identify key personnel within the organization to approve and facilitate a plan to activate ShakeAlert™ and provide feedback from their team of users.
  • Test user must understand that the ShakeAlert™ system is under development and that there are limitations of the current system (robustness, networks coverage) and uncertainties in earthquake parameters and reporting (false positives and negatives).

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