"Everybody understands how valuable an early alert would be before the violent shaking starts try to minimize injuries, fatalities and damage that we associate with every major earthquake," said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), who sponsored the legislation.
Padilla said it will cost $80 million to fully build the California Integrated Seismic Network, a system developed by California Institute of Technology scientists. The system uses hundreds of sensors placed near major faults to detect seismic waves.
University of California, Riverside seismologist David Oglesby said it could give major cities like Los Angeles up to a minute warning that a quake is coming.
"The warning gets there before the shaking does and this will allow for certain things to happen very, very rapidly, like the shutting down of gas lines and the stopping of trains, things like that," Oglesby said.
It would also give people time to take cover. In March of 2011, Japan's early earthquake warning system was credited with saving countless lives ahead of the devastating 9.0-magnitude quake.
Seismologists agree that it's not a matter of if, but when the "Big One" will strike California.
The bill could land on the governor's desk by mid September. If the governor signs off on it, it could be two more years before California gets its early warning system in place.