Garcetti urges more federal funding for earthquake warning tech

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the official launch of the ShakeAlertLA app Thursday, he called on the federal government to continue funding early earthquake warning technology for quake-prone areas, such as California.

Los Angeles is the first city in the country to offer an early-warning earthquake app. ShakeAlertLA is already ranked as the No. 3 most downloaded utility app on iTunes. It's also available on Android phones.

The app sends out alerts if an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or larger hits Southern California.

But Garcetti says funding for the program remains in danger. Not only should it be preserved, he said, but it should be expanded to Northern California and other earthquake-prone regions.

"We hope that we can get a federal government that at the highest reaches is behind this," Garcetti said.

But he notes when it's time for budget cuts, funding for earthquake sensors are always eyed for the chopping block.

"You can never count the lives saved. You can only count the lives lost. And so I know you can't show it on a budget, but this works and we need it."

The U.S. Geological Survey has some 400 sensors in the region to detect earthquakes. If a large one hits, they would send off a signal through the app indicating the epicenter and magnitude.

This push alert would be sent out to phones within seconds of the quake being detected. The push alert reads, "Earthquake, earthquake, expect strong shaking. Drop, cover, and hold on. Protect yourself now!"

Garcetti says the early warning can save lives and help Los Angeles stop trains and shut down gas lines. The app includes tips on how to prepare and recover following a quake.

Right now, you would only receive the push notification if you're in LA County.

Garcetti said people who live in other areas who want to benefit from the app should work with their local officials and the USGS to promote the technology.

"A lot of people have asked, why can't we use this in Ventura, Inland Empire, Orange County" Garcetti said. "We want to save the lives of our neighbors there too. And I would encourage folks in those areas to work with their local officials together with the United States Geological Survey to get this added."

The federal agencies who are partnering with the city on the technology, the Department of the Interior and the USGS, were not present at Garcetti's press conference detailing the app because of the federal government shutdown.
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