Detecting An Earthquake Before It Hits

A new device could warn people 30 seconds before the shaking begins.

By Susan Taylor
|  Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011  |  Updated 9:11 AM PDT
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Dramatic Photos: Easter Quake Photos From Mexico

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MIAMI BEACH, FL - JANUARY 14: Residents of Miami Beach and surrounding neighborhoods deliver goods to a truck being loaded in South Beach to be delivered to the nation of Haiti after a devastating earthquake there earlier this week, January 14, 2010 in Miami Beach, Florida. This is the third truck loaded by a grassroots group of community activists who spread the word using social networks and in 24 hours have gathered donations. Planeloads of rescuers and relief supplies are headed to Haiti as governments and aid agencies launched a massive relief operation after a powerful earthquake that may have killed tens of thousands. U.S. President Barack Obama ordered a swift and aggressive U.S. rescue effort, while the European Union activated its crisis systems and the Red Cross and United Nations unlocked emergency funds and supplies for the destitute nation. Much of Port-au-Prince was reduced to rubble by the 7.0-strong quake on January 12 but the airport was operational, opening the way for international relief aid to be ferried in by air as well as by sea. (Photo by Angel Valentin/Getty Images)

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The West 2011 conference kicked off at the San Diego Convention Center Tuesday.

It's a place where top leaders in the U.S. Military and Defense Industry come together to trade information on technology and trends.

Some of that technology is being used to help Californians stay one step ahead of disaster.

A company called "Seismic Warning" is developing what it says is the first regional earthquake early warning network.

The "Net Quake Guard" uses sophisticated sensors to detect the first waves of an earthquake.  It then sends out a signal to a network of devices. They in turn send out an alert that an earthquake is coming as much as 30 seconds before damaging seismic waves hit. 

Developers say such advanced warning gives everyone a better chance of getting to safety.

"It can stop surgery centers in operation mode, " said George Dixon with Seismic Technologies. "It can communicate to water systems, re-route water or gas mains, utilities, so it's basically creating a network that's a disaster utility."

The regional system is being tested first in the Palm Springs area. The company hopes to expand it statewide within five years.

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