Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Currently Viable Earthquake Early Warning System Would Cost Less Than It Would Save

San Francisco Earthquake

The cost of an Earthquake Early Warning System would easily pay for itself 
in diminished personal injury insurance claims.

System under testing gives 10-second warning. "Ten seconds before the earth rumbled in a UC Berkeley lab early Sunday morning, an alarm started blaring — and an ominous countdown warned that a temblor centered near Napa was moments away. 'Earthquake! Earthquake!' it cautioned, after a quick series of alarms. 'Light shaking expected in three seconds.' The successful alert was the biggest test yet in the Bay Area for a type of earthquake early-warning system that's not yet available to the public in the U.S. but already is providing precious seconds of notice before quakes hit in Mexico and Japan." Katy Murphy in the San Jose Mercury News.

uake boosts calls for early-warning systems. "In the coming years, Californians could have valuable seconds of warning before earthquakes such as this week's wine country temblor reach them....Earthquake early warning systems that provide such notice are in place in Mexico and Japan. But California has lagged behind those countries, and is still trying to identify funding sources for the roughly $80 million needed to implement an early-warning system in the state. Sunday's rolling 6.0 shake near Napa has led to renewed calls for its quick deployment before another, possibly more destructive temblor strikes. Researchers are testing a system that could provide tens of seconds of warning, but it is not available for public use." Sudhin Thanawala in the Associated Press.

Costs to the tourist industry could rise to $4 billion. "Insurers will probably cover about $2.1 billion, according to an estimate from Kinetic Analysis Corp....Costs borne by the industry may be limited because many homeowners don’t have earthquake coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute....Catastrophe-modeler Eqecat estimated there would be $1 billion of insured losses, with as much as half that figure coming from residential claims. The cost for the industry could climb because of coverage that protects commercial policyholders from lost revenue, Eqecat said. Such losses have fueled higher-than-expected claims from other recent catastrophes including superstorm Sandy in 2012." Michael B. Marois, Zachary Tracer and Dan Hart in Bloomberg.

Earthquakes cost more in rich countries, but devastate poor ones. "Earthquakes are more expensive in rich areas because there’s more to break.....While there’s more to break in wealthy countries, construction is far better — buildings have to meet earthquake-safety regulations, for example. In poor countries, a greater proportion of the existing infrastructure collapses in a quake....Related to the greater risk of infrastructure collapse, quakes are yet another deadly condition that disproportionately impact the poor....Don’t let the damage estimates fool you: To survive an earthquake with most of your loved ones and resources intact, it is far better to be in Napa Valley than Nicaragua or Haiti." Charles Kenny in Bloomberg Businessweek.

Explainer: Taking the measure of an earthquake. Evan Horowitz in The Boston Globe.

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