Fire fighter at Northridge fire

The goal of earthquake warning is to prevent injuries, avoid damage, and reduce the time and cost of recovering from an earthquake. This leads to increased resilience of the community and the economy to earthquakes.

Onscreen emergency alert message
TBD-lic, via The Tuscon Sentinel/TDB-attrib
Warning vs. Notification

Everyone will want to be notified that an earthquake is underway. The earthquake may not affect you directly, but you will want to know whether you have friends or family in the zone where the greatest damage occurs. This is a notificationAn announcement of an earthquake that does not reliably occur before the arrival of serious ground shaking. Cannot be used to initiate critical responses..

Office earthquake drill
TBD-lic, via The Otago Daily Times/Craig Baxter

Earthquake warning is intended to directly assist people in avoiding injuries. For this to be possible, you must know what to do when the warning occurs and be willing to do it, without thinking or evaluating the situation. This requires that you be trained and drilled on the proper actions.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On in an office
Fotolia/M. Siegmund
Location Based Warning

where yoou are during an earthquake matters. You may be at work, in school, eating out, at a concert, in a store, in church, or riding a bus. Wherever you are, some organization is responsible for your safety at that time. This is one reason the owner of a building, whether public or private, installs fire alarms and lighted exit signs.

Drop, Cover, and Hold On in a school
CC-Attribution/Al Key

The Seismic Warning Systems approach to earthquake warning is to work with the owners of facilities to help them protect you while you're there. The facility owner can determine the proper response to the warning, and provide training or guidance to you as appropriate. In this way, responsibility for your safety in an earthquake is handled by the people who know most about where you are and the hazards you'll face.

Biker looking at a cellphone
CC-BY-2.0, via Flickr/Paul Sableman
Mobile Notification

When you're out walking about, riding a bike, or driving your car, a notificationAn announcement of an earthquake that does not reliably occur before the arrival of serious ground shaking. Cannot be used to initiate critical responses. can be sent to your cellphone to inform you of an earthquake. Given the delays of cellular networks, less warning time will be provided. Also, no specific guidance about what you should do can be offered, beyond the standard, drop, cover, and hold on.

Our focus is on getting earthquake warning to those places where specific training and guidance will have the greatest impact on preventing injuries.

Chevron Richmond refinery
CC-BY-2.0, via The Chronicle/Liz Hafalia

Automated responses to an earthquake warning can prevent damage. The best example is the prevention of fires which are the cause of the largest non-structural losses from earthquakes. Gas and power can be automatically shut off, where appropriate, before the shaking can cause any damage. These can be restored after an inspection.

Automation can be used to reduce clean up costs by preventing spills. Preventing spills also reduces recovery time. There are many examples of using automation to increase resilience.

Oil pipeline break and spill
CC-Attribution/Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun
Benefits of Resilience

Increased resilience means reduced recovery time due to fewer injuries, less damage to repair, fewer spills to clean up, and more resources available to deal with the earthquake's aftermath. Increased resilience means lower costs which increase the ability of businesses and individuals to survive the impact to their finances. Increased resilience is the goal of earthquake warning.