The Really Big One: Forum set August 6 at UO

EUGENE, Ore. - Worried about the potential Cascadia earthquake scenario described in a recent article in The New Yorker?

The article provides for a timely, teachable moment about recent advances toward regional preparedness and efforts to expand a West Coast earthquake early warning system, according to University of Oregon geologists Rebecca Dorsey and Douglas Toomey.

The topic is the subject of a public event Thursday, August 6, at the UO.

The U.S. Geological Survey has awarded approximately $4 million this week to four universities - California Institute of Technology, University of California, Berkeley, University of Washington and University of Oregon - to support transitioning the "ShakeAlert" earthquake early warning system toward a production stage.

A functioning early warning system can give people a precious few seconds to stop what they are doing and take precautions before the severe shaking waves from an earthquake arrive, USGS said.

"Oregon needs more sensors when it comes to implementing our earthquake early warning system, especially in the southwestern part of the state," Rep. Peter DeFazio said. "This grant from USGS is critical. It will support the great work being done at the University of Oregon to build an early warning system that gives people more time to get to safety during a major earthquake. It's a great first step, but more must be done at the federal level. I will continue to push for the funding necessary to continue development of the EEW system, so we can save as many lives and prevent as many injuries as we possibly can."

"These funds are being used by the University of Oregon to adopt fifteen new sites in Oregon and make them earthquake early warning compliant," said Toomey. "We will reconfigure the telemetry of the sensors that the Oregon Legislature funded earlier this year to reduce latency from tens of seconds to just a few. In addition, we will add a full-time project manager and field engineer to support the operations and maintenance of these and other sites." Toomey noted that the U.S. Geological Survey awarded $1 million to West Coast seismic networks earlier in the year to upgrade sites in Oregon and Washington. The University of Oregon has managed Oregon sites for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network since 1990. "Congressman DeFazio and the Oregon delegation have been consistent advocates for earthquake early warning. These investments add momentum to the eventual establishment of a fully built out west coast earthquake early warning system."

In March, DeFazio joined over 35 Members of Congress in sending a letter to the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee urging an additional $16.1 million be appropriated for the transition of the EEW from a demonstration project to an operational system. Earlier this week, DeFazio introduced legislation that would require FEMA to develop a plan, and identify the necessary funding for purchase and installation of an offshore earthquake early warning system for the Cascadia Subduction Zone.

"The federal investment in earthquake early warning is supported by university research and our capacity to manage scientific infrastructure. This investment creates both a public service benefit as well as new opportunities for scientific discovery in a seismically active region," said Michael H. Schill, University of Oregon president. "These monitors also contribute to our investment in faculty hiring, specifically our clusters of excellence focus in Volcanology, that will help us make new discoveries about our earth."

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