March 17, 2013
by John Vidale
27 February 2013, University of Washington
The University of Washington, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, in partnership with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, CalTech, UC Berkeley, and the USGS, is developing an Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system for the Pacific Northwest. The PNSN organized a workshop to introduce regional stakeholders to EEW and obtain their input to help direct the development and implementation process. The workshop brought together more than 50 people from private, public, political and governmental sectors to discuss the progress and future of the system.
The morning speakers provided a review of the work in California, the PNW and other countries. Highlights included learning how the Japanese EEW system works and specifically its impact during the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011; the total costs associated with a U.S. West Coast EEW plan, which are estimated to be $38M initially and $16M per year to maintain; and issues the PNW faces in gaining up to 3 minutes of warning before strong shaking arrives a given community.
The afternoon breakout sessions allowed attendees to discuss specific questions pertaining to EEW such as: what groups are ready for the system, are there implementation issues with giving warnings just to limited groups in the beginning, and how can we define and document EEW benefits for sensible long-term planning? These produced lively discussions with a diverse set of responses. Most of the organizations felt they were ready to take some actions based on an EEW system, although not able to take the full and best advantage. The consensus held that going ahead with current plans is a good beginning while blueprints for timely development of a fuller range of mitigation possibilities are developed learning from the experience of other EEW users around the world.
One topic of concern was what kind of public education program would be required to have the public make "risk-wise decisions" after receiving the warning. What is the scope of effort needed? Who should be responsible for the education programs and how will they be funded? The groups spent some time on this topic and acknowledged that we must take into consideration the social and psychological factors.
Another area of in-depth discussion was a cost-benefit analysis. One suggestion was to form a working group to determine how to best compile existing data to demonstrate case studies, simple but effective formulas (based on reasonable assumptions) or existing tools to encompass out both tangible and intangible benefits.
Overall, the workshop provided an effective venue for discussion of EEW issues, identification of common issues, and formulation of plans for next steps to implement an EEW system. Meeting notes from have been published.
* Explore forming a cost benefit analysis sub-group;
* Explore further questions about communication to the public;
* Follow up with participants about organizations hosting an EEW prototype.
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