White House Cuts “ShakeAlert” Earthquake Warning System

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Thirty-four Democrats in Congress from Western states urged the Trump administration to include research funding for an early earthquake warning system in the fiscal 2018 budget. The House members asked Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to push for just over $16 million for continued development of an Early Earthquake Warning system called ShakeAlert, reported The Hill.

The U.S. Geological Survey experimental program ShakeAlert uses algorithms to detect earthquakes and warn the public. When fully operational, ShakeAlert will be able to distribute alerts through FEMA’s smartphone Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and smartphone apps, as well as TV and radio over the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, social media, and other electronic alert technologies as they develop.

ShakeAlert has been in beta testing since 2012, in California; Oregon and Washington State were added this year. When ShakeAlert detects an earthquake, a map pops up on the user’s screen to show the location of the earthquake epicenter and of waves moving toward the user; also shown is the time remaining until waves will reach the user’s location and an estimate of the shaking intensity. “The seconds to minutes of advance warning can allow people and systems to take actions to protect life and property,” according to the USGS.

The Los Angeles Times reported funding for ShakeAlert was cut from the 2018 budget in May. A budget document posted on the Interior Department’s website doesn’t say why. Scientists working on the program say without federal funding the research will probably end.

“Congress has made plain its sustained support for ShakeAlert, and its implementation is crucial to saving lives and property. We urge the Trump Administration to recognize the immense value of this system and fully support its funding so that it can be deployed widely before the ‘big one’ hits,” wrote Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) in a letter to Mulvaney this week, signed by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and 31 other lawmakers.

November 3, 2017

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