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Scripps Gets $700K To Support Earthquake Detection System

Photo by Susan Murphy

Margaret Leinen (right), vice chancellor of marine sciences at UC San Diego and director of Scripps Oceanography, and George Dickson, founder and CEO of Seismic Warning Systems announce a collaboration in early warning earthquake detection, Nov. 12, 2015.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla announced a $700,000 gift from a private firm to support an earthquake detection system in Southern California.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla Thursday announced a $700,000 gift from a private firm to support an earthquake detection system in Southern California.

The money from Seismic Warning Systems Inc., of Scotts Valley, will help pay for the continued operation of the Anza Seismic Network, which encompasses 28 earthquake monitoring stations in San Diego and Riverside counties.

According to Scripps, the 33-year-old network, provides the best coverage of the San Jacinto fault zone, considered the most active fault in Southern California. The U.S. Geological Survey has proposed funding cuts for the system, Scripps officials said.

"The Anza network provides critical data to help detect and transmit earthquake hazard information to protect lives and infrastructure," said Margaret Leinen, vice chancellor of marine sciences at UC San Diego and director of Scripps Oceanography. "Seismic Warning Systems has stepped up to provide the kind of critical private funding that makes a difference to our science and our society."

Scripps research geophysicist Frank Vernon, the lead researcher of the network, said the San Jacinto fault zone, with its branches and extensions into the Imperial Valley, remains one of the most active in the continental U.S., and the Anza seismic gap remains one of the most probable sites for a moderate to major earthquake in the next few years.

"The potential is there. We know that the fault hasn’t had a major rupture in 215 years and so these are things that concern us from a hazards point of view," Vernon said.

Of the 28 monitoring stations, 21 provide real-time information along the San Jacinto fault zone, spanning 74 miles from Hemet to the southern end of the fault. A half-dozen of the stations are within 1,900 feet of the surface trace of the fault, providing the opportunity for unique, near-fault observations, Vernon said.

Seismic Warning Systems develops and deploys earthquake warning systems and services.

Under the new collaboration, San Diegans could be warned approximately 20 seconds before a large earthquake on the San Andreas fault. On the much closer San Jacinto fault, an early warning could mean just 5 to 10 seconds — enough time to slow trains and sound alarms. A warning device could go in any type of facility, said Mike Price, the firm's chief technology officer.

"A school would have a device connected to their public address system, and that device will automatically produce a warning sound and a warning message that the school children and the teachers have been trained to respond to, to mean drop, cover, hold," said Price.

Price said his company also produces a device that can be installed in fire stations. "It receives a warning and it opens a door and turns on the station lights and sends an audio alert to the fire fighters to let them know an earthquake has started.

"This is a great example of how a collaboration between the private sector and a leading university can advance the science and practical application of regional earthquake warning solutions in the pursuit of saving lives and critical infrastructure," Price said.

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