Britsh Columbia is striving to develop an Early Warning System as one method to guard against the impact of a significant earthquake on the West Coast of Canada. The Minister of State responsible for the program is Naomi Yamamoto. The system will be operational by 2020 at the earliest.
Even then, it is not certain how the system will be set up or how the warnings will be communicated. It could be one comprehensive cell broadcast (CBS) to every cell phone in southern BC or a combination of CBS, public sirens, and other warnings integrated into things like home alarm systems. Japan has the most developed earthquake/tsunami warning system called J-ALERT. It operates with two levels of service: a) high-risk utilities and businesses pay a fee for constant service and must have their own earthquake detection devices and b) the public who get warnings without charge on their phones and through country-wide loudspeakers. J-Alert has over 4,000 land-based earthquake sensors and 150 ocean sensors. Some estimates are that Japan has spent more that $1 billion US on its early warning system.
While there is much for the Government of British Columbia to learn from Japan, it is more likely that our system will mirror the Shake Alert system being built by the United States of America. Shake Alert is under the guidance of the United States Geological Survey, a federal agency, with significant input from the states of California, Oregon, and Washington as well as a select group of universities. Shake Alert's primary goal is to provide a warning to subscribers. The amount of warning is estimated to be in seconds, but, hopefully, enough time to take preventive measures that may save your life or avoid severe injury.
What if the earthquake happens in the middle of the night when you are sleeping? Other communication methods will be needed to sound the alarm and trigger preventative measures.
Diarmuid D. O'Dea