Mayor Garcetti Announces First in the Nation Early Warning System Pilot at LAUSD School

Eagle Rock High School to pioneer school beta testing of USGS ShakeAlert technology

Mayor Eric Garcetti today announced that Eagle Rock High School will have the first classrooms in the country to pilot the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) earthquake early warning system, ShakeAlert. A software application installed on classroom computers will give students access to the beta-stage ShakeAlert system, which uses ground motion data from 625 seismic sensors across California, Oregon, and Washington to deliver a few seconds or minutes of warning before seismic shaking hits.

"The success of ShakeAlert is integral to our city's future: here in Los Angeles, we know the question is when -- not if -- the next big earthquake will hit, and a warning can mean the difference between life and death," said Mayor Eric Garcetti. "As a national leader on earthquake resilience and a tech capital, it's seems natural that L.A. would be the test bed for this pioneering seismic safety technology-- all while inspiring a future generation of engineers and seismologists in our schools."

The ShakeAlert system is being developed and tested by the USGS, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), University of California Berkeley, the California Office of Emergency Services, and a coalition of state, local, and university partners, and is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the USGS. The system, in beta-testing since 2012, is designed to issue public warnings of potentially damaging earthquakes and provide warning parameter data to government agencies and private users on a region-by-region basis. Currently functioning in a trial beta version in Southern California, the ShakeAlert system will expand across the West Coast of the U.S. as more seismic sensors are installed and the system becomes more robust.

"When disaster hits, a fraction of a second is valuable, a few seconds can save lives, but being able to detect the unpredictable? That's priceless," said Councilmember Bob Blumenfield who chairs the City's Trade, Commerce, and Technology Committee. "As a technophile and policymaker, I'm thrilled that Los Angeles is leading in the deployment of cutting edge solutions to enhance the safety of our communities and our schools."

"I applaud the Mayor's leadership on earthquake safety," said Councilmember Gil Cedillo, who chairs the the City's Housing Committee. "A new study finds that there is a 99.9 percent chance of a magnitude-5 or greater earthquake hitting Los Angeles in the next 3 years. We have to do everything in our power to be ready. That's why the passage of the mandatory earthquake retrofit ordinance was so important."

At Eagle Rock High School, a software application called ShakeAlert User Display has been installed on selected science classroom computers. The application receives earthquake alerts from the ShakeAlert demonstration system over the Internet and gives audio and visual alerts when an earthquake occurs. For educational purposes, the alert threshold can be set at a low magnitude level so students will receive ‘no shaking’ advisories for earthquakes they will not feel. This is the first time the ShakeAlert system will be available to a school in beta format.

The ShakeAlert system’s audio and visual alert will be used to initiate regular earthquake ‘drop, cover, and hold on’ drills in the classroom setting and will give faculty, staff, and students the opportunity to integrate live earthquake warnings into emergency response procedures. Additionally, this pilot will also serve as an opportunity for the USGS and Caltech to test the system’s functionality and user experience prior to broader public expansion.

"We are looking forward to working with LAUSD to provide students the opportunity to learn about earthquakes, the hazards they create, and what they can do to reduce the risk," said Dr. Lucy Jones, USGS seismologist. "This pilot program will allow us to obtain feedback on the function and use of ShakeAlert within their classrooms in order help advance us towards the goal of issuing earthquake warnings throughout the west coast."

The City of Los Angeles supported the development of the Southern California network with federal grant funding for the addition of 125 seismic sensor stations. Because of this investment, Southern California has become the first region in the United States with the density of stations needed to support the early warning system.

SB 494, a bill approved by Governor Brown this month, requires the identification of funding for the expansion of the earthquake early warning system in California by July 1, 2016.

This pilot is the latest step in Mayor Garcetti's citywide Resilience by Design plan, developed with leading seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones to protect L.A.'s buildings, water system, and communications infrastructure in the event of a major earthquake. This announcement follows the enactment of Mayor Garcetti's nation-leading mandatory seismic safety building retrofit ordinance, which seeks to strengthen some of L.A.'s most at-risk buildings from collapse or damage in an earthquake, protecting Angelenos' lives, L.A.'s economy, and the City's affordable housing stock. To ensure Angelenos can communicate in the event of a seismic emergency, Mayor Garcetti also worked with Councilmember Bob Blumenfield to pass legislation which requires the strengthening of new cell towers to an 'importance factor' of 1.5-- the same level of structural safety required for public safety buildings.