Update Apr 6: Report on the event from the Chronicle...
Today at 2 p.m., U.C. Berkeley will webcast a media briefing by "leading West Coast seismologists who will discuss their recommendations for establishing an earthquake early warning system in California, Oregon and Washington."
From the media advisory:
Earthquake scientists from Washington, Oregon and California are meeting today and tomorrow, April 4 -5, to discuss the feasibility of establishing an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast similar to the one that gave a valuable heads-up in the recent giant quake in Japan. Such a system would place seismic monitors in a dense arrangement in fault zones and could begin sending warnings of impending ground-shaking within five seconds after an earthquake is detected by the nearest seismometer.
“Japan’s earthquake early warning system undoubtedly saved thousands of lives, and will reduce the long-term impact of the earthquake on the economy,” said Allen, who has been working for nearly a decade to develop and test an earthquake early warning system in the United States. “A similar system in California could provide as much as a minute warning – and in Washington, as much as two-to-three minutes’ warning – so that some actions, many of them automated, can be taken before the destructive waves arrive.”
Even a warning of 30 seconds could be enough for a doctor to halt surgery, a factory to shut down sensitive equipment, for a train to stop before it reaches a vulnerable bridge or prevent airplanes from landing or taking off. That could save many lives and potentially prevent millions of dollars in damage, Allen said.
For more on the state of earthquake preparedness in California, the L.A. Times has a piece from April 1.