Earthquakes pose a critical threat to people and infrastructure in the San Francisco Bay Area and in many other parts of the world. By combining advances in earthquake science with new communication capabilities, it is now possible to provide warning of coming earthquake shaking. Warnings of a few seconds to a few minutes can be used to take cover under a sturdy table, to slow and stop trains, and to isolate hazardous machinery and chemicals at work — and to thereby reduce damage and injuries. We will discuss how the seismic network in California is now generating warnings and the path to public alerts (ShakeAlert.org). We will also demonstrate a new technology that uses smartphones to detect earthquakes that could provide warning around the world (Myshake.berkeley.edu).
Richard Allen is an expert in earthquake alerting systems, developing methodologies to detect earthquakes and issue warnings prior to shaking and tsunamis. His group uses seismic and GPS sensing networks and is experimenting with the use of a global smartphone network called MyShake. Testing of the ShakeAlert warning system for the U.S. west coast is currently underway. Allen’s group also uses geophysical sensing networks to image the internal 3D structure of the Earth and constrain the driving forces responsible for earthquakes, volcanoes, and other deformation of the Earth’s surface. His research has been featured in Science, Nature, Scientific American, the New York Times, and dozens of other media outlets around the world. He has a B.A. from Cambridge, a Ph.D. from Princeton, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech.