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Napa Quake Triggers Renewed Calls For Early-Warning System After Lack Of Funding

BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- What if Californians could have a warning that an earthquake is about to happen? The technology is available, but a lack of funding from Sacramento has stalled the project.

It's a simple idea, but a very expensive one: using sensors throughout the state to blast out early earthquake warnings. At UC Berkeley, it's already up and running.


"You get two pieces of information. How many seconds until the shaking starts, and how strong is the shaking is going to be," Professor Richard Allen of the Berkeley Seismology Lab told KPIX 5.

Earthquake warnings of up to 10 second could be used to slow down trains, alert doctors in hospitals, even notify people on their phones. "So you could duck, cover and hold on," Allen said.

The state legislature approved the system and Gov. Jerry Brown has even signed off on it. The thing is, the earthquake warning system wasn't given any money.

"Well we certainly know what the state's economic situation and the state budget condition has been," said State Sen. Alex Padilla.

Read More: How technology is changing our response to earthquakes

In other words, the warning system's $80 million startup cost, coupled with the $10 million to $15 million annual maintenance cost is too rich for a state just coming out of the red, and still facing a wall of debt.

"Well, I think that we are trying to leverage the collaborative ability of both the public and private sector," said Mark Gilarducci, Director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

"So we are pursuing is the combination of special funds outside of the general funds," Padilla said.

Money for the system could come from federal funds, or possibly an extra charge on people's electric or cell phone bills.

"After the next incident like yesterday, they system will prove its value. Ongoing funding will not be an issue," Padilla said.

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