State budgets $10 million for earthquake early warning

“While the ShakeAlert project partners have been able to add some additional stations, this funding will enhance the buildout of the seismic networks to provide the best possible warnings for Californians,” said Allen, a professor of earth and planetary science.

Hill, Hertzberg, and Gray took on the bipartisan effort after being approached by Allen and his team through UC Berkeley’s Office of Government and Community Relations, whose staff also briefed the governor’s staff about the need for a system to protect lives and property throughout the state.

The original mandate, SB 135, was authored by then-State Senator Alex Padilla and signed into law in 2013. Padilla’s intent was that the system would be funded by public-private partnerships, but it became apparent that public funding would be needed to supplement any such partnerships. Cal OES has since worked with partner organizations from the California Integrated Seismic Network, the private sector, utilities, the Legislature and all levels of government to implement the system.

UC Berkeley notes that California is second only to Alaska when it comes to earthquake activity in the country, according to the USGS. About $3.5 billion, or 66 percent, of the monetary losses suffered from earthquakes in the U.S. each year occur in California, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says.

Seismologists agree that California is due for another “Big One.” The Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast in 2015 said there is a 99.7 percent likelihood that an earthquake with a magnitude 6.7 or greater will occur in California in the next 30 years – and a 93 percent chance that an earthquake with a 7.0 magnitude or greater will occur.

“Funding programs that keep our constituents safer should be a top priority for the Legislature and the administration,” said Gray. “The earthquake early-warning system will protect property, mitigate systemic damage and above all save lives in the event of an earthquake. The $10 million that we worked so hard to get approved in the budget will certainly provide a much-needed kick-start to the program, but there is still plenty of work to be done.”

“We know it is coming — it’s just a matter of time — and the sooner we get the early-warning system up and running, the better,” said U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, who represents Pasadena and Caltech and has led funding efforts for the warning system and earthquake preparedness at the federal level. “I hope today’s investment by California will encourage Oregon and Washington state to join the effort so we can build out the system along the entire West Coast.”