Can the Cell System Handle Earthquake Alerts?

Questions are being asked about how effective Wireless Emergency Alerts could be for earthquake alerts.

Conversation is developing about whether Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) can be effective for earthquake warnings. In a thorough report on South California Public Radio station KPCC, the possibilities were explored with Doug Given of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Given, who leads the USGS for the earthquake warning prototype, questions the speed of WEA for earthquake alerts. He told KPCC Science Reporter Sanden Totten, “Every second that’s consumed by the alert system is a second you don’t have to respond.” Given thinks the cell companies would need to upgrade their networks to make earthquake alerts work.

Are the Technical Challenges Surmountable?

Perhaps Given is right, but it seems to me that technical challenges are surmountable. The earthquake warning system could be directly patched into the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System under which WEA operates; the alert tones could be shortened; and the speed of the WEA cell network could be better understood. Seems like now is the time to start studying these things, as legislators look for a way to fund the earthquake warning system.

How Would People React to Earthquake Alerts via Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)?

The human behavior factors need to be understood. I wonder how people would react to earthquake alerts via WEA, whether the alerts are received as the earth shakes or shortly after shaking stops. If anyone knows of any such studies or has theories about the question, please let us know.

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