Last month, a Los Angeles TV anchorman soared into viral heaven when his morning newscast was interrupted by a smaller, 4.4 quake.
By comparison, look how Mexican TV covered the 7.2 quake that struck off the coast of Acapulco on April 18, 2014. The anchorman comes on nearly 30 seconds before the quake strikes, giving him plenty of time to warn of the impending danger. You can see him react relatively calmly when the quake finally hits.
That’s because Mexico has had an early warning system since the devastating 1985 quake that killed more than 9,000 people.
So why don’t we have one in California yet?
The warning system is up and running—but it’s only a small, prototype and therefore not available for the public. It’s all about money and politics. Apparently to build a proper warning system would require some $80 million in funding, something the California legislature has not yet been willing to approve.
Even 30 seconds’ warning could prove to be lifesaving:
Trains could be stopped, planes waved off from landing on potentially ruined runways, elevators sent safely to the nearest floor.
“There’s a good chance someone is going to be right in the middle of a very delicate procedure when an earthquake occurs,” says Kurt Kainsinger, who manages earthquake safety at one LA’s busiest medical centers, UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Hospital. “If we have advanced warning, if we have five seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds warning—there’s a lot we can do.”
For more about earthquake early warning systems, and when we might get them in the U.S., watch "TechKnow" on aljazeeraamerica this Saturday night at 7:30PM ET/4:30PM PT.