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An earthquake early warning system for California

This is Science Today. If there's a major earthquake, could a few seconds of early warning before the ground shakes really help you? According to Richard Allen, the associate director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, it certainly can.

Allen:  A few seconds is not long, but it's enough time to get underneath a sturdy table or get to a safe zone if you're working in a hazardous environment. It's enough time for transportation systems to start to slow and stop. So, trains for example can start to slow and stop. You could prevent prevents planes from landing during the course of an earthquake. And then if you're working in a chemical factory or a factory that has sensitive machinery, you can put things into a hold state, so that you'll have less damage and less casualties during an earthquake.

Narrator:        Allen is leading the development an earthquake early-warning system for California that could broadcast such an alert. Such systems are already being used in Japan, Taiwan and Mexico.

Allen:  Earthquake early warning is the next generation of real-time earthquake information. It's very rapidly detecting the beginnings of an earthquake, assessing the hazards associated with that earthquake and then providing people with a warning - just a few seconds before the ground shakes.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.