Schiff: House Appropriations Committee OKs earthquake early-warning system

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted on Tuesday to include $5 million in the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2015 for an earthquake early-warning system.

It’s the first time Congress has ever provided funding specifically for the system, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

Earlier this year, Schiff led a group of 25 members from California, Washington and Oregon in organizing a request that the committee fund an early earthquake warning system. A limited system developed by Caltech, UC-Berkeley and University of Washington, in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, has already been implemented and has proven that the early-warning technology is sound, according to Schiff.

The $5 million in funding will allow those developing the statewide system to begin purchasing and installing additional sensors, hire new staff members and come closer to deploying comprehensive early earthquake warning coverage throughout earthquake prone regions of the West Coast, Schiff said.

The Schiff language included in the Appropriations bill reads, “…the committee provides $5 million from within the funds provided for earthquake hazards to transition the earthquake early warning demonstration project into an operational capability on the West Coast.”
 “It’s critical that the West Coast implement an earthquake early warning system that will give us a heads up before the ‘big one’ hits, so we can save lives and protect infrastructure,”Schiff said in a statement.

“We are constantly reminded of our vulnerability  -- with tremors, earthquakes and aftershocks rattling our homes and businesses -- and even a few seconds of warning will allow people to seek cover, automatically slow or stop trains, pause surgeries and more," he added. "This first phase of funding will allow the work to begin expanding the system, and we will continue to work to secure future funding along with our other federal, state and local partners.”

Thomas F. Rosenbaum, president off the California Institute of Technology, said Caltech and its partners are grateful that the House of Representatives is sending a strong signal of support to implement an earthquake early-warning system for the West Coast.

"We look forward to moving ahead with this critical technology over the next few years," he said.

In April, Rep. Schiff and 25 Members from California, Washington and Oregon sent a letter to members of the Appropriations Committee urging them to fully fund an earthquake early warning system.

Schiff’s letter requested additional funding for the earthquake hazards program in U.S. Geological Survey to kickstart the process of building out the early warning system so we can be ready for the next big quake.

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