Monday, 25 August 2014

EARTHQUAKE ENGINEERING OF THE DAY: Early-warning system

Astonishingly, an early-warning system at UC Berkeley was able to give a 10-second alert before the Napa earthquake struck this morning.

That might not sound like much, but that is precisely 10 seconds more warning of destruction than anyone has been able to enjoy before. Even better…

California is working to complete a statewide system, which could be unveiled in the next few years.

An earthquake early warning system in California would be like one now operating in Japan, providing valuable seconds to prepare for the shaking.

Once fully developed, the system could give downtown Los Angeles 40 to 50 seconds of warning that the “Big One” was headed from the San Andreas fault, giving time for elevators to stop at the next floor and open up, firefighters to open up garage doors, high-speed trains to slow down to avoid derailment and surgeons to take the scalpel out of a patient.

It’s not magic.  It can’t look forward in time or anything.

The system works because while earthquakes travel at the speed of sound, sensors that initially detect the shaking near the epicenter of a quake can send a message faster -- at the speed of light -- to warn residents farther away that the quake is coming… “even a few seconds of warning will allow people to seek cover…”

So, if you’re at the epicentre you’re still stuffed. But anywhere further afield, and this could save your life.

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