May 30, 2018
Humboldt State University’s public radio station, KHSU, is joining a network of state and university partners to test the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System that is being implemented on the West Coast.
Managed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and still in its pilot phase, ShakeAlert\ is currently being tested in a variety of real-world environments.
“The goal to get as much as much time as possible to people or institutions such as utilities or hospitals before the damaging shaking arrives,” says ShakeAlert coordinator Robert de Groot.
According to the USGS, more than 143 million Americans live in areas of significant seismic risk across 39 states. In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7 percent chance of a 6.7-magnitude or larger earthquake and the Pacific Northwest has a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.
Humboldt State’s location along the Cascadia subduction zone, its geology and preparedness experts, and its broadcasting capabilities make KHSU good fit for the pilot program.
“HSU is an important member of the community and has people who not only know the science but who are competent emergency communicators and planners such as those who work with the Redwood Coast Tsunami Work Group,” says de Groot.
When an earthquake happens, seismic waves travel outward in all directions. Primary (P) waves travel faster than secondary (S) waves, which do the most damage. But electronic information can be sent faster than either wave. ShakeAlert can detect an earthquake very quickly and send an alert of imminent ground motion before strong shaking arrives.
A few seconds of warning does not sound long, but it is enough time to do something to protect yourself such as “Drop!, Cover!, and Hold On!” The warning might also be used to trigger an automatic shutdown of factories and transit systems—actions that can reduce damage and casualties during an earthquake, and prevent cascading failures in the aftermath.
“Those few seconds can give listeners along the North Coast a chance to maximize their safety, hopefully get to the safest spot available, and be more prepared for the quake,” says KHSU General Manager Peter Fretwell.