Seismic Warning Systems to Use Local Communications Network for Earthquake Warnings

A business that seeks to provide clients with several seconds of advance notice when an earthquake strikes is expanding in Southern California by buying capacity on a local scientific radio communications network.

Seismic Warning Systems Inc. of Scotts Valley is using the HPWREN network, which is a joint project between the San Diego Supercomputer Center and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography — both located at the University of California, San Diego.

Ultimately the business wants to provide earthquake warnings to fire stations, police stations, hospitals and water systems in Imperial County, said Mike Price, chief technology officer at Seismic Warning Systems.

The company is paying $75,000 a year to send priority traffic over the HPWREN network, Price said.
The business is just taking its first steps to deploy about a dozen new sensor stations in the Imperial Valley. “We’re doing site surveys now,” Price said.

HPWREN is one of the best options for carrying the traffic in that isolated part of California, he added.
The San Andreas Fault runs through Imperial and Riverside counties on its way up the state to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Price said his business would like to put sensors in other portions of the state, including possibly San Diego County.

The HPWREN network consists of radio infrastructure backbone connecting isolated mountaintops in Riverside, Imperial and San Diego counties — plus San Clemente Island. Some network traffic originates at the Palomar Observatory; technicians there ship large image files of the night sky to researchers in the flatlands. HPWREN stands for High-Performance Wireless Research and Education Network.

Seismic Warning Systems has a staff of eight people in addition to contractors. The business declined to give its revenue. It has been serving governments in the Coachella Valley since the early 2000s.

During the 2014 Napa earthquake, the system was able to send a few seconds’ advance notice to the Bay Area city of Vallejo.

Earthquake warnings can trigger other mechanical systems that shut off electricity, shut valves and make elevators stop moving and open their doors at the nearest floor — all in the name of safety.
In the Napa incident, the system was able to start motors that open fire station garage doors in Vallejo, even before the shaking started in that town.

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