Seconds to Save Lives

When a natural disaster is expected—a flood, tornado, hurricane, volcanic eruption, and more—a warning can be the crucial difference between survival and death. The Oregon Coast is especially vulnerable to a massive earthquake, but there hasn’t been a warning system in Oregon. Central Lincoln was one of many agencies contacted by the consortium behind ShakeAlert: Would we be willing to have ShakeAlert sensors placed in our facilities?

ShakeAlert is an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey. ShakeAlert uses sensors to detect “P waves”—primary waves created by earthquakes that are faster than “S waves,” the secondary waves that cause earthquake damage. The system has been used successfully in California to notify people when an earthquake is imminent. The amount of warning time ranges between five seconds and 45 seconds, giving residents time to quickly get to a safe place—to drop, cover one’s head and neck, and hold on.

Central Lincoln’s General Manager Randy Grove was immediately supportive: “What better way to connect with our customers and communities than to help save their lives? And not only customers, but our visitors?” he says. “The technology is proven; it works well. The consortium needed secure places on the coast to locate sensors, and we could provide those spaces.”

He recommended Central Lincoln’s Board of Directors approve an intergovernmental agreement with the University of Oregon for placement of seven ShakeAlert sensors, and it was approved in February 2019, and completed that fall.

However, a lack of funding prevented ShakeAlert from being completed. Determined leaders carved out $7.5 million in scarce state funding two months ago: “Our investment will make sure Oregon has state-of-the-art technology that will allow precious time to save lives,” said coastal Rep. David Gomberg proudly.

Thanks to the additional funding, Oregon’s ShakeAlert system is expected to be complete by the end of next year.

When an Earthquake Happens

  • Drop, get under a desk or table, cover your head and neck with your arms, and hold on.
  • Do not get in a doorway.
  • Do not run outside.
  • If you are outdoors, stay away from buildings.
  • If you are in a car, pull over and stop. Set your parking brake.
  • If you are in bed, turn face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow.

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