California senate approves earthquake early warning system

FRESNO, Calif.

Californians are well aware of earthquakes. But with "the big one" always a possibility, one lawmaker says this early alert system could make a big difference before disaster strikes.

On Tuesday, the California State Senate unanimously passed a bill to create a statewide early alert warning system. Once in place, thousands of sensors throughout the entire state would detect the strength and progression of an earthquake.

Seismologists say the system could help shut down gas lines and stop trains when the shaking is detected. It could also alert people within 60 seconds, who live several miles away from the epicenter.

"But it's a tremendous amount of time to maybe get a baby out a crib, for a surgeon to remove the scalpel from the patient or a crane operator to put those beams down on the ground. And really try to minimize the amount of damage we associate with all those big earthquakes and especially, the amount of injuries and fatalities," said State Senator Alex Padilla (D) Los Angeles.

Padilla said it will cost $80 million to fully build the California integrated seismic network -- a system developed by California Institute of Technology scientists. He believes this would be a wise investment and could be paid for without impacting the general fund.

The measure is headed to the State Assembly for a full vote, but if it passes, it could end up on the governor's desk by mid-September. If the governor signs off on it, it could be two more years before California gets its early warning system in place.

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