FOX 11 News In Depth: West coast earthquake early warning system could be 2 years away

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A tweet online shows the moment of the Mexico City quake and the sounds of the earthquake warning system in the city. You see people running and a large group exiting the doors of a building. That's the value of the warning. People run for safety. But, the warning might only give people a few seconds.

Republican Congressman Ken Calvert represents California's 42nd District. About the Mexico Quake, Calvert tells FOX 11 News, “It was very tragic. Obviously, predictable there. Predictable here. It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.”

We caught up with Congressman Ken Calvert in Corona. It’s part of his district. He’s been the force behind federal funding for an early warning system here on the West Coast to give us valuable seconds to get to safety.

Our system has a series of tones and then the words “Earthquake…Earthquake”.

At one point it sounded like the President was going to pull the funding-rug from out under the program. He wanted to cut the budget which would have affected the U.S.G.S. and it's early warning system.

Dr. Tom Heaton at CalTech has in the past, said the cut could have been as much as 9-million dollars of the 10.2 million they have been getting each year in Federal funding is to make and install the system that operates with over 1000 sensor devices spread across California, Oregon and Washington State.

The Congressman is chairman of the Interior and Environment House Subcommittee. It has jurisdiction over the US Geological Survey and, therefore, its early warning system.

At one hearing Calvert said, "California is very concerned about this. I am too." His subcommittee was able to get the funding back on track.

"And, now..." says Calvert, “The biggest thing is how we make the warning system work.”

In general, because its based on sensors. The further you are from the epicenter the more warning you’d get...even if its seconds. But, because earthquakes can happen at any moment he says the sooner the system can be made operational the better. He says before that though, it has to work effectively. He thinks we are a "couple of years" away from that.

CalTech seismologists agree adding that it'll first be workable in a part of the system and then spread outward.

Alarms may help some - but not others. Remember, the Northridge earthquake happened at night. People were asleep. Calvert admits it can take people a few seconds to come too if a quake were to hit in the middle of the night but thinks an early warning system would still be a life-saver.

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