ShakeAlert sensor set up in Coos Bay

COOS BAY, Ore. - According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 77 percent of earthquake risk (with an annual loss of $4.1 billion) is concentrated on the West Coast (ie: California, Oregon and Washington).

The geologic forces that shaped the landscape of Oregon coast region are still active.

Experts say an earthquake early warning system that can rapidly detect earthquakes and send alerts will prompt actions to protect life and property before strong shaking arrives. Development of such a system is a critical step toward offsetting risks, improving public understanding of earthquake hazards and reducing fear of the unknown and unpredictable nature of earthquakes.

Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) ShakeAlert is one of three early warning software packages being tested together by the California Integrated Seismic Network. Developed at University of California Berkeley, ShakeAlert detects earthquakes, locates them and estimates magnitudes within seconds of the P wave's arrival at the surface. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN), operated out of the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, has adapted the software for use in the Pacific Northwest utilizing the seismic networks in Washington and Oregon.

This year the PNSN is filling in coverage gaps with new strong motion seismic stations along the coast from California to the border of Canada to be able to shorten warning times for shaking from the next great Cascadia Subduction Zone quake.

The PNSN distributed its modified Pacific Northwest (PNW) ShakeAlert software to a test group of companies, utilities and government agencies throughout Washington, Oregon and British Columbia in February of this year and has been successfully delivering alerts for the small and moderate sized earthquakes that have occurred in the region since then.

When fully operational, PNW ShakeAlert will distribute alerts through all available distribution channels, including FEMA's Wireless Emergency Alert system and Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, smartphone apps, social media providers and other electronic alert technologies as they develop.

What that means is you can have real-time message alerts delivered to your smartphone or computer before strong shaking begins. The message alerts the user to how many seconds before the shaking waves arrive at their location and the expected intensity of the shaking at that site. The warning message also displays a map with the location of the epicenter and the magnitude of the quake.

The ShakeAlert system has been sending live alerts to test users in California since January of 2012 and now a West Coast Earthquake Early Warning System is being tested. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) will issue public warnings of potentially damaging earthquakes and provide warning data to government agencies and private users on a region-by-region basis, as soon as the ShakeAlert system, its products, and its parametric data meet minimum quality and reliability standards in those geographic regions. Product availability will expand geographically via Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) regional seismic networks, such that ShakeAlert products and warnings become available for all regions with dense seismic instrumentation.

Researchers were looking for a site in Coos Bay, an important city on the coast of Oregon that is currently unmonitored. On choosing Southwestern Oregon Community College as a site for the seismic sensor, Bill Steele, Seismology Lab Coordinator at the University of Washington (UW) said, "We love to co-locate with schools, particularly colleges because they are welcoming to scientific research and have good network connectivity to stream the data back to UW for processing. Our engineer, Marc Biundo, met some very welcoming and helpful folks at SWOCC when he was looking for appropriate sites and here we are."

For more information about ShakeAlert visit:
You can also visit: to watch demonstrations of the system.

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