Accessibility links

Breaking News

US Seeks to Improve Earthquake Preparedness

FILE - Seward Highway near Portage, Alaska. The Great Alaska Earthquake on March 27, 1964, opened fissures on the highway at the head of Turnagain Arm and destroying nearby bridges and railroad tracks.

U.S. President Barack Obama has signed an executive order that will improve earthquake safety at federal government buildings in the U.S.

Tuesday's order will not only make government buildings safer, it will speed up earthquake recovery and reduce cleanup costs.

The U.S. Geological Survey predicts that more than 143 million Americans live in areas where they could experience damaging earthquakes. The estimate is double that of 2006 due to larger populations in earthquake-prone regions and better technology to predict the risk of future earthquakes.

The White House is also working to accelerate an early warning system for earthquakes on the West Coast, which is earthquake prone. Once the system is fully operational, early warnings would be issued by the United States Geological Survey. The alerts would also go out to individual smartphones and allow people to move away from hazardous locations.

At a White House sponsored conference Tuesday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell noted that the development of an earthquake early warning system will aim to give people a “head start” before an earthquake or a tsunami hits. “When it’s fully functional,” Jewell said at the Earthquake Resilience Summit, “it will put preparedness within everybody’s reach.”

Such technology has been established in a number of countries including Mexico, China, Japan, and Turkey, with already advanced systems setting a standard for the United States.

"We are not first to this party. I wish we were,'' Jewell said.