Scientists agree that early warning devices and monitoring of both Hurricane Hugo and the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption saved thousands of lives. What would it take to develop this sort of early warning and monitoring system for earthquake activity?
Not all that much, claims a panel assigned to study the feasibility, costs, and technology needed to establish a real-time earthquake monitoring (RTEM) system. The panel, drafted by the National Academy of Science's Committee on Seismology, has presented its findings in Real-Time Earthquake Monitoring. The recently released report states that “present technology is entirely capable of recording and processing data so as to provide real-time information, enabling people to mitigate somewhat the earthquake disaster.” RTEM systems would consist of two parts—an early warning system that would give a few seconds warning before severe shaking, and immediate postquake information within minutes of the quake that would give actual measurements of the magnitude. At this time, however, this type of warning system has not been addressed at the national level for the United States and is not included in the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, according to the report.