• EarthquakesDiscovery of “hidden earthquake” challenges tsunami early-warning systems

    Seismologists studying the 2011 Chile earthquake have discovered a previously undetected earthquake which took place seconds after the initial rupture. This newly discovered phenomena which they have called a “closely spaced doublet” presents a challenge to earthquake and tsunami early warning systems as it increases the risk of larger-than-expected tsunamis in the aftermath of a typical subduction earthquake.

  • Earthquake warningWest Coast lawmakers ask Obama for $16.1 million to complete earthquake early warning system

    Last Wednesday thirty-six Members of Congress from western states urged President Barack Obama and the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to increase the funding level for earthquake hazards programs in their 2017 budget request — more specifically, to provide $16.1 million dollars in funding for an on-shore Earthquake Early Warning System (EEW) being developed by scientists in Southern California and along the West Coast. The lawmakers say that such an early warning system would be helpful in providing residents and first responders with advance notice that could help save lives, avoid injuries, and avert major infrastructure damage by slowing trains to prevent derailment, stopping elevators, pausing surgeries, and taking other actions in the event of a major earthquake.

  • Public alertsFEMA assessing over-the-air broadcast alerting technology

    FEMA’s National Continuity Programs’ Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Division (IPAWS) has begun to assess the feasibility of a public alert and warning capability which is being developed in the private sector. FEMA says that new technologies could deliver detailed emergency information to the public with pictures and videos of evacuation routes, storm tracks, and shelter information — increasing community preparedness before, during, and after a disaster.

  • CrimeAn app alerts people, law enforcement about potential crime risk

    You are walking home after a night out on a dark autumn evening. Suddenly, you get the feeling that someone is following you. You look over your shoulder, and see a shadow between the trees in the park. You quicken your steps. When you glance behind you again, you see the shadow disappear in between two houses. This is when you could press the “help” button on the app that you have downloaded. It sends a message to everyone in the area who also has the app, with information about your phone number and where you are. This way they are able to call you, alert emergency services, or get to your location if need be. The app has been developed by a group of student entrepreneurs.

  • Seismic early warningImproving West Coast earthquake early warning system

    UC Berkeley is among four universities to receive grants last week from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to help bring the planned ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system toward a production stage. Among other tasks, the partners also will continue development of scientific algorithms rapidly to detect potentially damaging earthquakes, more thoroughly test the system, and improve its performance.

  • Seismic early warning$4 million awarded to support earthquake early warning system in Pacific Northwest

    The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) last week has awarded approximately $4 million to four universities — California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington, and University of Oregon — to support transitioning the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning (EEW) system toward a production stage. A functioning early warning system can give people a precious few seconds to stop what they are doing and take precautions before the severe shaking waves from an earthquake arrive.

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  • Emergency alertsDisinformation campaigns damage credibility of social media emergency alerts

    Disinformation campaigns, which populate sections of social media platforms such as Twitter, are making real emergency data and notifications harder to absorb, a cybersecurity analyst argues. The spreading of emergency-related hoaxes, including those which involve conspiracy-related topics, damages the credibility of sites that provide useful information in those circumstances.

  • Flood warningTexas flood exposes serious weaknesses in high-tech warning systems

    The Memorial Day weekend flood in Texas was a test for regional flood warning systems employed by local and federal emergency agencies. Hays County officials issued three “reverse 911” notifications to residents residing in homes along the Blanco River. The National Weather Servicesent out flash flood warnings to registered local cellphones. Yet the disaster flood, which caused tens of millions of dollars in property damage in Blanco and Hays counties and killed more than a dozen people, exposed serious weaknesses in high-tech warning systems.

  • FloodingBetter flood-warning system

    On Memorial Day evening, Houston, Texas suffered massive flooding after getting nearly eleven inches of rain in twelve hours. Rice University civil engineering professor Philip Bedient is an expert on flooding and how communities can protect themselves from disaster. He directs the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center (SSPEED) at Rice University. Bedient designed the Flood Alert System — now in its third version — which uses radar, rain gauges, cameras, and modeling to indicate whether Houston’s Brays Bayou is at risk of overflowing and flooding the Texas Medical Center. He says more places need those types of warning systems.

  • EarthquakesQuakeAlert app to be tested by USGS, CalTech

    Santa Monica, California-based Early Warning Labs says that a new technology it developed in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) can alert users before shaking strikes their location. The app, called QuakeAlert, will alert users with a countdown to when shaking will strike their exact location and tell the user how severe the intensity of the shaking is expected to be in their location. The app will be available for free once USGS approves the technology.

  • Earthquake early warningU Oregon expands role in Pacific Northwest earthquake early warning system

    The University of Oregon will soon be playing an active role in preparing West Coast residents for the next magnitude 9 earthquake. Working in cooperation with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN), the UO will maintain fifteen seismometers previously owned by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The seismic network is a cooperative between the UO and the University of Washington, and is a key player in the development and testing of a West Coast earthquake early warning system. The recent passage of Oregon Senate Bill 5543, which was signed 30 March by Gov. Kate Brown, paved the way for the state of Oregon to acquire the seismometers with a one-time appropriation of $670,000.

  • Emergency alertsFormer Israeli PM Ehud Barak invests $1 million in emergency reporting app developer

    Israeli start-up Reporty Homeland Security has raised $1 million from former prime minister and minister of defense Ehud Barak. The company’s technology aims to streamline communication between citizen and government agencies at the same time that it protects the user’s privacy. The company’s application establishes a two-way video and audio connection to the emergency help center, transmitting information which gives the precise location of the person making the report and allowing for an evaluation of the incident report’s credibility.

  • Earthquake early warningSmartphones could be used for earthquake early warning

    Smartphones and other personal electronic devices could, in regions where they are in widespread use, function as early warning systems for large earthquakes according to newly reported research. This technology could serve regions of the world that cannot afford higher quality, but more expensive, conventional earthquake early warning systems, or could contribute to those systems. The researchers found that the sensors in smartphones and similar devices could be used to issue earthquake warnings for earthquakes of approximately magnitude 7 or larger, but not for smaller, yet potentially damaging earthquakes.

  • Seismic warningCalifornia exploring ways to fund ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system

    A 2008 ShakeOutreport predicts that a 7.8 magnetic quake could cause up to $200 billion in damages from buildings and infrastructure collapse, leaving households and most businesses without electricity and water for months. About 50,000 people would be injured, and more than 2,000 could die.The proposed ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system,is similar to systems in Mexico and Japan, which residents have relied on to receive notice about an incoming quake seconds before it arrives.California is exploring many options to fund the ShakeAlert system, with some officials favoring a federal-state partnership.

  • Flood forecastingColorado deploys latest flood forecasting technology

    Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has raised concerns about House Bill 1129, a 5-year, $10 million proposal to implement a new technology which would assist with predicting the direction and intensity of wildfires and floods. Scientists have spent twenty years working on the proposed technology for Colorado, saying it is finally ready for implementation. The technology uses rainfall estimation, precipitation forecasting, and water modeling along with hundreds of thousands of atmospheric data points to predict the direction, speed, and intensity of floods, with up to 12-hour notice. As advancements in technology and computing allow for more accurate flood predictions, some variables remain a challenge for hydrologists.