The International Information Center for Structural Engineers

Monday, 08 September 2014 10:22cat

UC Berkeley Advance Warning System Performed Well During Earthquake

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UC Berkley's early detection system was able to provide a warning of the earthquake 10 seconds before it struck UC Berkley's early detection system was able to provide a warning of the earthquake 10 seconds before it struck UC Berkley Seismological Laboratory

An earthquake-detection system developed by the University of California Berkeley’s Seismological Laboratory performed well during the recent earthquake that struck the Napa Valley region on August 24. The system was able to produce a warning message 10 seconds before the magnitude-6 temblor struck. "It was definitely a great proof-positive that the system works just like we'd hoped," says Jennifer Strauss, the lab's external relations officer. "One of the things the Napa quake did show us is you need to make sure there are enough sensors," says Strauss. One member of the lab even stated the warning could have gone out 2.5 seconds earlier had the lab received more funding to install more sensors in the area. California unanimously passed a bill last year that would create a state-wide early detection system. Funding for such project, however, has yet to be found.

Scientists are hoping that the success of the University of California Berkeley’s system will help secure funding for the project and speed up completion of implementing the system. California officials outlined many ways to fund the early detection system at the International Conference on Earthquake Early warning on Wednesday. The system successfully alerted the Bay Area’s transportation system, the BART, to stop their trains before the earthquake hit as well as gave emergency respondents eight seconds to prepare for incoming calls. San Francisco recently hired a group to determine other groups of people that would benefit from an automatic feed from the system. The ultimate goal of the city is to be able to send out warnings to everyone’s cellphone and computer. In addition to being able to warn everyone, the system’s developers would like to increase the warning time to one minute.

In addition to the early detection system performed, the Napa school district’s 30 campuses structurally performed even better. Three architectural and engineering teams inspected every room of every school and observed no structural damage from the quake. All of the schools had previously been retrofitted to much stricter codes than commercial or residential buildings.  Each of the school buildings also previously underwent methodical reviews by the Division of State Architecture and had full-time state inspection on-site during seismic retrofitting. Overall, 1,053 buildings have been tagged in Napa that have structural damage. Of the 1,053, 900 have been yellow tagged and 153 have been red tagged.

Sources: ENR ConstructionLA Times

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