Research & Development

Earthquake, Tsunami & Volcano Programs

What is Research and Development (R&D) in Regards to Earthquake Early Warning?

Earthquake early warning enables individuals to take protective actions, such as drop, cover, and hold on, and it can notify delicate-process facilities that may want to slow or stop sensitive operations to mitigate damage. R&D activities focus one stablishing rapid alert dissemination channels and technologies and then integrating them into California’s infrastructure and industries.

Challenges to Full Implementation

A key consideration for R&D in the CEEWS design is “latency”, the time it takes to detect, characterize, and model earthquakes, and to deliver targeted alert messages to people at risk from impending earthquake shaking.
Historically, public alerting systems have been engineered for reliability and reach, but the speed of operation has rarely been considered a design priority. During the Cold War, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) was designed with the intent to disseminate a Presidential broadcast within 15 minutes. Local alerts, such as those from the National Weather Service (NWS), can presently deliver messages in a matter of minutes.

Earthquake early warnings are special because alert generation and delivery must occur within three seconds of the earthquake being  detected. A 2016 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report about the suitability of existing warning systems for EEW, determined that no current alert delivery technology in use could meet the 3-second maximum latency criteria to deliver an earthquake alert.

​Current Projects Under Development

One method under development to counter act latency is datacasting (databroadcasting). Datacasting utilizes extra bandwidth in digital TV signals and is currently used to transmit news, weather, traffic, and stock market information that may or may not be related to the program on TV at the time. This information can also be used to broadcast earthquake early warnings which can be utilized by companies and individuals with specialized receiver equipment. Datacasting is a robust, high speed data delivery method that can provide an alternative to other methods like phone and internet.


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