Three dozen members of Congress from California, Oregon and Washington are pressing for full funding of a West Coast earthquake early warning system.
The group this week sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee asking that the U.S. Geological Survey receive $16.1 million to make a demonstration system fully operational.
“With advanced notice, people can take cover, automated systems can be triggered to slow down trains and manage the power grid, doctors can pause surgeries, and more,” the letter stated. “The technology has been tested and proven to work effectively.”
The $16.1 million sum is the estimated annual cost of building, operating and maintaining a full system of sensors that detect initial energy from a rupturing fault and could provide – depending on distance from the epicenter – valuable seconds and perhaps up to a minute of warning before slower but more damaging seismic waves arrive.
“While the United States is the most technologically advanced country in the world, we still lag dangerously behind other countries in implementing one key technology that can save lives, property and infrastructure – an Earthquake Early Warning system,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, said in a statement.
In a separate effort to address earthquake risk, Los Angeles city leaders planned to join California Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian on Wednesday at a news conference to urge passage of legislation that would provide a five-year, 30 percent state seismic tax credit to property owners who retrofit vulnerable older buildings.
The bill, authored by Nazarian, would support a push by Mayor Eric Garcetti for passage this year of city ordinances intended to rapidly identify and retrofit certain types of at-risk residential and commercial buildings, fortify major water systems that would be severed by a huge quake, and keep telecommunications systems operating.
The goal is to keep the region sufficiently functional to avoid a long-term economic collapse in the event of what seismologists say is an inevitable shock on the order of a magnitude-7.8 quake caused by a 200-mile-long rupture of the mighty San Andreas Fault.
Targeted properties include so-called soft-first-story buildings, which are typically wood-frame buildings with large spaces on the ground floor. Sixteen people were killed in the collapse of such a building during the magnitude-6.7 Northridge, California, earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994. Also targeted are more than 1,400 concrete buildings that could collapse in a quake.
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