Trump Signs Earthquake-Warning Reauthorization Bill

The bill reauthorizes the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program for the first time since 2004. The program pays for core operations at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and other projects around the country.

by Evan Bush, The Seattle Times / December 14, 2018
Shutterstock/Belish

(TNS) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a bipartisan bill into law that will likely keep early earthquake-warning projects in the Pacific Northwest on track.

The bill reauthorizes the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program for the first time since 2004. That program pays for core operations at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) and other earthquake-monitoring projects around the country. In the recently signed legislation, Congress added emphasis on developing earthquake early warning systems that detect seismic waves in advance of strong and damaging shaking.

The bill also directs federal agencies to gather information on the ability of communities to prepare, recover and adapt to earthquakes and for researchers to make a systematic set of seismic-hazard maps.

Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, sponsored the bill.

Trump last year targeted the early warning system for budget cuts, but congressional members on both sides of the aisle rallied to bankroll the programs.

Scientists are working to build out the ShakeAlert early warning system in the Northwest, according to Harold Tobin, the director of PNSN and a University of Washington professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences. The system is operational, but only sends messages to civil agencies and cities involved in a pilot program.

In the event of a Cascadia megaquake off Washington’s coast, the system could provide between 10 seconds and a minute of warning for the Seattle area.

©2018 The Seattle Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.