Wednesday, February 03, 2016

White House announces steps to boost US resilience to earthquakes

The White House on Tuesday announced new measures, including a new executive order, aimed at improving the country's resilience to earthquakes in the future.

Under the executive order signed by President Barack Obama, US federal agencies responsible for the design and construction of a new building, or an alteration to an existing building, must ensure that the building is constructed or altered using the earthquake-resistant design provisions in the most current building codes.

One of the most notable measures was an earthquake early warning test system for the US west coast, called ShakeAlert, whose beta operational version was deployed Monday by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), along with its partners from state governments, universities and private foundations.

"This next-generation production prototype will allow beta users to develop and deploy pilot implementations that take protective actions based on the USGS ShakeAlert warnings in areas with sufficient station coverage," the White House said in a statement.

The USGS was also working together with the US Forest Service to explore "streamlined and expedited" permitting for siting of seismic monitoring stations with an initial emphasis on sites important for earthquake early warning.

In addition, the independent US Federal Communications Commission recently issued two sets of new proposed rules related to earthquake early warning and other next-generation warning systems.

The proposed rules would facilitate the delivery of narrowly geo-targeted alerts to ensure everyone in a location can receive a warning; reduce alert delivery delays; integrate Emergency Alert System tests, including actual alert signals and text, into community public safety exercises; ensure that alerts will be consistent across different technology platforms; and facilitate community feedback to alerts using 911 and social media.

A 2015 scientific assessment from the USGS showed that more than 143 million Americans in the continental United States could experience potentially damaging earthquakes.

This estimate is nearly double the previous 2006 estimate of 75 million Americans and is attributed to both populations growth in earthquake-prone areas and better methods for estimating earthquake risks.

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