ShakeAlert will warn Oregonians of the ‘Big One’


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — What if you knew about an earthquake moments before it hit?

With the potential for a massive earthquake at the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the U.S. Geological Survey along with their university partners on the West Coast are building out an alert system to do just that in order to help Oregon be more resilient in the aftermath of a great quake.

ShakeAlert will give Oregonians anywhere from a few seconds to potentially a few minutes of warning before shaking starts — giving people a chance to drop, cover and hold on. Seismologists said it can also help protect critical energy infrastructure, automatically.

“Like slow down train, turn off water valves or kick on emergency generators — that’s the internal focus right now is to use automated actions,” said Oregon Seismic Network manager Dr. Leland O’Driscoll.

Dr. O’Driscoll is one of many people working to build out earthquake sensors for the alert system.

Oregon needs to build 200 sensors, and so far, the state has 73. Oregon has already invested $1 million, but it will take $12 million more — which will be a mix of state and federal funding through USGS.

Gov. Kate Brown listed ShakeAlert as a top priority in Oregon’s resiliency plan — aiming to have the alert system up and running by 2023.

“It really kind of gives a shift from the old days when seismic codes weren’t up to snuff to and we’ve quickly turned over to realize we need to build out a more resilient state,” Dr. O’Driscoll said.

According to seismologists, implementing the early earthquake alert system will be an imperative cost-saving and life-saving measure in Portland.

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