Imperial County to test earthquake warning system

Imperial County Fire Chief/OES Coordinator Tony Rouhotas Jr.

EL CENTRO – At their regular meeting of Tuesday, March 11, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors adopted an agreement with Seismic Warning systems, Inc. for an Earthquake Warning System and Notification Services for a sum not to exceed $250,000.

Imperial County Fire Chief and Office of Emergency Services Coordinator Tony Rouhotas, Jr. requested the action as well as the authorization for him to sign the agreement on behalf of the County.

The Early Warning System and Notification Services agreement is funded by the DR-1911 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

On October 1, 2013, the Board accepted the program funds to be used towards the development of an Early Warning System.

On November 18, 2013, the County sent out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for qualified companies to respond to the proposed project of establishing an Earthquake Warning System and Notification Service.

Seismic warning Systems, Inc. was the only company to respond to the RFP. They were selected by the committee made up of the Imperial Irrigation District, the City of Brawley Fire Department, and the Imperial County Fire Department and Office of Emergency Services.

Supervisor Michael Kelley asked, “In 15 seconds to 1 minute, how will residents be alerted that a seismic event will occur, giving enough time to evacuate the premises?”

“The primary proposal of the project is not for the public in its entirety,” said Rouhotas. “It’s for the first responders. What we are looking at now is how to expand this initial project to alert the public. The purpose of the initial grant is to have 20 designated sites that are first responder locations to make them aware such as dispatch centers, fire stations, and police stations. Once we get the initial system in place, we will expand the system to alert the public.”

The system will eventually be able to network with Riverside County and their early warning system.

Imperial County became eligible for these funds because of the Easter 2010 earthquake and the severe damage that occurred.

The State of California is looking at the Imperial County as a test site for this system.

The public may eventually be notified by the same system that Amber Alerts are received on phone lines, smart phones, facsimiles, email, or reverse 911.

“It’s all based on timeframes,” said Rouhotas. “It depends on where the earthquake happens how quick you can get the notification. You can choose if what manner you receive emergency alerts on our websites.”