Automated alerts from the fledgling West Coast earthquake early warning system are ready to be used broadly by businesses, utilities, schools and other entities but not for mass public notification, officials said Wednesday.
“We’re making a large change from a production prototype in pilot mode to an open-for-business operational mode,” Doug Given, earthquake early warning coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey, told a press conference at the California Institute of Technology.
The system being built for California, Oregon and Washington detects that an earthquake is occurring, quickly analyzes the data and sends out alerts that may give warnings of several seconds to a minute before strong shaking arrives at locations away from the epicenter.
That can be enough time to automatically slow trains, stop industrial processes, start backup generators, pause a surgery or send students scrambling for protection under desks and table.
Pilot programs involving select users have been underway for several years.