Revised technical implementation plan for the ShakeAlert system—An earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the United States

Open-File Report 2018-1155
By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), along with partner organizations, has developed an earthquake early warning (EEW) system called ShakeAlert for the highest risk areas of the United States: namely, California, Oregon, and Washington. The purpose of the system is to reduce the impact of earthquakes and save lives and property by providing alerts to institutional users and the public. Using networks of ground-motion sensors and sophisticated computer algorithms, ShakeAlert can detect an earthquake seconds after it begins, calculate its location and magnitude, and estimate the resulting intensity of shaking. Alerts can then be sent to people and systems that may experience damaging shaking, allowing them to take appropriate protective actions. Depending on the user’s distance from the earthquake, alerts may be delivered before, during, or after the arrival of strong shaking.

ShakeAlert is built on the foundation of the sensor networks and data processing infrastructure of the USGS-led Advanced National Seismic System. However, these networks were not originally designed for EEW; old equip­ment needs to be updated and new stations must be added to construct EEW-capable networks. The ShakeAlert data-processing infrastructure includes redundant servers that are geographically distributed at monitoring centers in Seattle, Washington, as well as Menlo Park, Berkeley, and Pasadena in California. Three data-processing layers collect raw ground-motion data from field stations (data layer), analyze these data to estimate the area and intensity of the resulting shaking (production layer), and publish alert products as appropriate for end users (alert layer). The alert layer can support thousands of institutional users and alert redistributors, but the USGS does not have the mission, infrastructure, or expertise to perform public notifications and is therefore recruiting technology enablers from the private sector. Additionally, ShakeAlert will coordinate with both public and private partners to accomplish consistent and ongoing public communication, education, and outreach.

The estimated cost of completing the ShakeAlert infrastructure and sensor networks is \$39.4 million and has an estimated annual operation and maintenance cost of \$28.6 million per year. Building a highly reliable data telemetry infrastructure would cost another \$20.5 million and operating this telemetry system would add \$49.8 million per year; however, these costs could be reduced if project partners provide bandwidth on existing systems.

Suggested Citation

Given, D.D., Allen, R.M., Baltay, A.S., Bodin, P., Cochran, E.S., Creager, K., de Groot, R.M., Gee, L.S., Hauksson, E., Heaton, T.H., Hellweg, M., Murray, J.R., Thomas, V.I., Toomey, D., and Yelin, T.S., 2018, Revised technical implementation plan for the ShakeAlert system—An earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the United States: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018–1155, 42 p., [Supersedes USGS Open-File Report 2014–1097.]

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Vision
  • Mission
  • Goal
  • Authorities
  • The Physics of the Problem
  • Benefits and Uses of ShakeAlert
  • A Brief History of Early Earthquake Warning
  • The ShakeAlert System Strategy
  • Major System Components
  • Alert Distribution and Use
  • Alerts to the Public
  • Communications, Education, and Outreach
  • ShakeAlert Partners and Users
  • System Roles and Governance
  • Expanding to Other Regions
  • Continuing Research and Development
  • Budget Estimate
  • Timeline
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Appendix
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Revised technical implementation plan for the ShakeAlert system—An earthquake early warning system for the West Coast of the United States
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2018-1155
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181155
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Earthquake Science Center
Description vii, 42 p.
Country United States
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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