Earthquake Alert System Could Be a Reality

Up to the minute advance warning before temblor.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A $6 million grant is helping scientists warn the populace of earthquakes. (Published Thursday, Dec 1, 2011)

    Get out of town: earthquake's a-coming.

    An alert for quakes akin to the ones for tsunamis, hurricanes, and fog is a dream as old as the 1868 Hayward earthquake -- but there are real-life 21st-century scientists working on such a device at this exact moment, and they promise that it's "close to reality," according to the San Jose Mercury News.

    Brainboxes from the U.C. Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey have devised a method to record p-waves, seismic shocks that preclude an earthquake by several seconds to up to a minute, according to the newspaper.

    They don't predict quakes, per se -- as in they do not say, "these tectonic plates will slide and cause seismic activity Tuesday at 3 p.m." -- but they will give residents just enough time to dive under a table, avoid a pot of boiling water, or otherwise brace themselves for a quake, scientists say.

    There's already a network of sensors in place along the West Coast which record seismic activity. Some are similar to a system that's been in place in Japan since the 1960s, where train systems are informed of quakes and shut down. BART is working on such a kill-switch right now, according to the newspaper.

    A $6 million grant helped get this project
    going; before, scientists worked on a "shoestring" budget, the newspaper reported.