Early warning systems do exist, but they are expensive and complicated to implement. Even in tech-filled, quake-prone California, an early-warning system for earthquakes is only in the pilot stages.
Now a team of seismologists has designed a low-cost sensor that can help people today. Called the Brinco, it can send personalized warnings through an app up to 30 seconds before an earthquake hits. That may not seem likely a lot of cushion, but it could be enough crucial time to duck and find cover.
Even in places where early warning systems already exist, the Brinco's sensors can go further, giving a message targeted for a person's exact location and letting them know what to expect. A message might say, "Strong shaking in 15 seconds. The shaking should last 20 seconds. There is no risk of tsunami," or "Don't worry, you will feel a little bump but this earthquake is going to be harmless."
"No other products on the market are doing this," says Branden Christensen, a seismologist from OSOP, the seismograph manufacturing company that designed the gadget. "Brinco was designed to protect you and your family, not for scientists. Brinco's goal is to identify danger and get the word out instantly."
The company plans to initially target cities living on the "Ring of Fire," with a focus on the West Coast—everywhere from Seattle to Los Angeles. "There is no other place on the globe where the population is as tech savvy, open to innovative new products and as in tune with earthquake danger," Christensen says. "We would like Brinco to be as commonplace and reliable as a fire alarm —quietly vigil while you eat, sleep and go about your daily routine."
The device is available for pre-order from the company’s Indiegogo website for $189.