PG&E Deploying Earthquake Early Warning System

early warning system

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is working on integrating the State of California’s earthquake early warning system (EEW) into its emergency preparedness initiatives.  The integration is a collaboration amongst several companies and educational institutions, and PG&E is one of the first utilities in the U.S. to leverage EEW technology.

You can read the details of PG&E’s EEW implementation here.  In a nutshell, the earthquake early warning system utilizes “seismic sensor networks” to detect seismic activity which is then processed to forecast both the magnitude and ETA of the event. The EEW is expected to provide up to one minute of advanced warning, delivered via smart phone, radio or TV, which is enough time for people to hunker down.

The overall implementation is currently in pilot phase, which likely means full deployment will not occur for another few years. Once the system is completely deployed, I suspect it will play a key role in saving lives on a regular basis. It’s great from an emergency planning perspective as well, because an early warning should, in some circumstances, provide enough time for utility personnel to get a head start on mitigating as many potential service outages as possible.

I can visualize a future where PG&E’s EEW could be adapted to other uses – such as using wind sensors to better analyze impeding hurricanes or tornadoes. There’s little doubt; the company’s earthquake early warning system could be a huge advancement for emergency preparedness in general. Let’s hope so.

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