When Congress passed a budget over the weekend, $5 million of the $1.1 trillion approved was allocated for an earthquake warning system in California. The state has been working toward this point for several years, but still won't have enough money to fully deploy it.
With the $5 million, state officials intend to send alerts to some schools and fire stations after a new sensor system detects movement that could produce earthquakes. The school alerts would tell students to drop and cover. The fire station alerts would automatically open bay doors so they don't get stuck and trap fire equipment inside during a quake.
The ultimate vision is to create a massive system up and down the West Coast that not only alerts some schools and fire stations, but also provides alerts to individuals via cellphones and other channels. Those close to the project also believe there's potential for all types of organizations, public and private, to receive and use the alerts.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) issued a statement saying, "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."
The U.S. Geological Survey has said it needs $16.1 million a year to build out the sensor and alert dissemination technology for the West Coast. That does not include the cost of distributing the warnings through various communications channels.