National Opinions

February 5, 2013

The Record of Stockton: Quake warning system could save lives, teeth

Excerpted from The Record of Stockton:

Is $80 million too much to pay for a 60- to 90-second warning a quake is coming? It's probably too much for those of us in the valley, where quakes are rarely centered. It might not be too much if you live in the Bay Area ... and your dentist has sharp, pointy objects in your mouth when the warning comes.

The United States has been testing a warning system for years but it lags well behind countries such as Japan and Mexico in putting a system in place. First, what such a system could do: it could give time for some -- how much time depends on the distance from a quake's epicenter -- to take shelter.

What such a warning system won't do: it won't prevent damage. Once a shock wave starts rolling away from a quake's epicenter, it's way too late to shore up a building. State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, had a news conference last week at the California Institute of Technology's seismology lab urging passage of his bill to make a warning system a priority.

Such a system is credited with saving thousands of lives last year when a quake and tsunami devastated the east coast of Japan.

Many believe it's only a matter of time before a similar major earthquake strikes California.

The thinking is it's better to put the warning system in place before such a quake, than try to answer the inevitable woulda-shoulda-coulda questions.

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