New seismometer in Medford will connect to ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System

Medford, Ore. — Scientists say it’s only a matter of time before the big one hits the Pacific Northwest, and tonight southern Oregon is taking steps to prepare. A high-tech sensor now sits atop Roxy Ann in Medford, prepared to send data within seconds of an earthquake. The installation is part of a pilot project that’s taking place up and down the West Coast.

“Imagine you were getting LASIK or something like that, wouldn’t it be nice for them to have a little beep that says you’re about to get hit by an earthquake?” Medford Emergency Management Coordinator Larry Masterman says.

With a seismometer, that theory can become reality. The newly installed seismometer will connect to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System, a pilot program with the potential to notify an affected area before the ground shakes.

“When an earthquake happens within our network we capture it within a few seconds,” Oregon Seismic Network Manager Leland O’Driscoll says, “all of those data are transmitted to our processing center and so from start to finish, when an earthquake happens, to providing warning, we’re looking somewhere in the realm of 5 to 8 or 10 seconds.”

At that rate, Oregon Seismic Network Manager Leland O’Driscoll says the warning sent out could give people anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes to prepare, and while the ShakeAlert system won’t go public for a few more years, participating pilot agencies are already testing what they can do with time like that.

“We have users taking advantage of it right now to slow down trains like BART in the San Francisco bay area,” O’Driscoll explains, “we have Eugene Water and Electric Board who’s using the signal right now to shut down water gates and spin down their turbines.”

“That little bit of extra warning can literally save lives,” Masterman adds, “help us make some good immediate decisions, so that’s what we’re doing today.”

The seismometer on Roxy Ann marks the 5th sensor in our region. In the coming months 2 more will be live in Ruch and Merrill.

And if you’d like to learn more about how you can prepare for the big one, a public event is taking place next week. Prepare Out Loud will be held Tuesday, September 26th from 7 to 8:30 in the evening at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center’s Smullin Center. To learn more or to RSVP click HERE.

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