Cantwell Applauds $884K Grant for Earthquake Early Warning System

Funding will help University of Washington operate its seismic alert system, helping save lives, infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the announcement that the University of Washington will receive $884,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to support its ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system. The system helps protect lives and infrastructure by providing early warning alerts about potentially dangerous seismic activity. 

Cantwell has been a long-time proponent of the system. In 2016, she fought to increase funding to the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program for the ShakeAlert program, and in 2018 her legislation to modernize safety programs and help states prepare for and respond to earthquakes, as well as provide important resources to improve earthquake early warning, monitoring, and research, was signed into law. 

“We know Washington state is prone to dangerous seismic activity, and ShakeAlert’s rapid early warnings are critical to helping protect people and property across the Pacific Northwest,” Senator Cantwell said. “I applaud the hard work of UW scientists who continue leading the nation on earthquake safety, and I’ll keep working in the Senate to make sure our communities are resilient and prepared.” 

The ShakeAlert system is an earthquake early warning system developed by the USGS to distribute public alerts along the West Coast to warn users of anticipated shaking from a nearby earthquake. Earthquake early warnings give people time to drop, cover, and hold. Early warnings also allow enough time to slow trains, stop industrial processes, trigger back-up generators, pause surgeries at hospitals, and halt other activities that could be affected by an earthquake. 

The USGS worked with a coalition of state and university partners, including the University of Washington, to develop the ShakeAlert system, which went live for testing up and down the West Coast last year. The USGS collaborates with these institutions and other local partners to ensure the availability of crucial earthquake data. They also generate products needed for emergency response, including ShakeMap, which provides near real time estimates of ground motion, and PAGER, a rapid assessment of impacts following major earthquakes. 

Senator Cantwell has long been a leading voice to expand earthquake preparedness and resiliency. Last year, she and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee asking $18.6 million in funding be provided for the ShakeAlert system. And after urging by Cantwell in 2019, the Federal Communications Committee announced it would work with the USGS to ensure earthquake alerts would not be negatively affected by proposed changes to the Wireless Emergency Alert system.