Datacasting Helps Deliver Earthquake Warning of Minus 3 Seconds in Sacramento Trial
Tuesday, October 09, 2018 | Comments
The first-ever earthquake early warning in less than three seconds was successfully delivered Sept. 18 during a field trial by KVIE, the public television station based in Sacramento, California, using datacasting technology.

Four other California public broadcasting stations — KPBS (San Diego), KQED (San Francisco), PBS SoCal (Los Angeles) and Valley PBS (Fresno) — plan to test public TV’s datacasting system for earthquake early warnings.

America's Public Television Stations (APTS) and Eagle Hill Consulting are working with the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and California public TV stations on a multiyear project to develop a high-speed data delivery capacity for time-sensitive earthquake early warnings in California's most populated areas. The California Earthquake Early Warning System (CEEWS) is comprised of seismic sensors, data processing centers and end-user distribution mechanisms to warn individuals, institutions and infrastructure operators of impending shaking once an earthquake is detected.

The public TV project uses a network of existing high-power, over-the-air, data-capable television transmitters serving Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Fresno and Sacramento to carry CEEWS alerts with the low latency and broad reach of the public TV system. The public TV infrastructure has been ruggedized specifically for providing highly available and survivable services during all forms of natural disasters, unlike other communications systems.

“Public broadcasters in California are true pioneers in public safety, demonstrating the lifesaving power of public television’s datacasting infrastructure,” said Patrick Butler, president and CEO of APTS. “This field trial shows that public television can deliver the fastest ever earthquake alerts and warnings — in less than three seconds — the first time this dramatic new standard has ever been achieved. The previous standard was 30 seconds. When an earthquake hits, every second counts. We are proud to partner with local law enforcement and first responder agencies, especially Cal OES, to use the power of public television to keep all Americans safe.”

Datacasting technology enables the public-safety community to transmit secure data, including voice, text, files, images and video over existing broadcast TV signals to a targeted audience. Even in an emergency situation, where other wireless services often fail because of network congestion, datacasting provides a reliable platform for quickly sending and receiving large files.

In 2016, Sacramento’s KVIE conducted its first earthquake alert testing using datacasting. Also in 2016, APTS partnered with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) to make datacasting technology available nationwide.

Eagle Hill Consulting’s research found that 93 percent of Americans want the public broadcasting system to help provide an early warning when an earthquake strikes, and 96 percent of Californians agree. Most Americans (88 percent) believe the government should invest in an earthquake early warning system, and slightly more Californians agree (94 percent). In addition, 95 percent of Americans said it is important that emergency warnings be accessible to everyone, including individuals with disabilities and those in rural areas and low-income communities, at the same time.

About 143 million people in the United States are exposed to potentially damaging ground shaking from earthquakes. Potential benefits of an earthquake early warning system include public warning to alert individuals to drop, cover and hold on or safely stop vehicles. The system could also open fire station doors for rapid deployment of emergency response equipment and personnel and notify surgeons and dentists to stop delicate procedures and maintain critical medical facility operations.

The warning system could also safeguard the energy sector grid and other utilities’ infrastructure for strong shaking with warning alarms and automatic controls to prevent combustions, flooding and loss of water distribution systems. In addition, the system could prevent fatal collisions by automatically slowing and stopping trains, clearing bridges and diverting inbound airport traffic. In workplaces, the system could help evacuate employees to safe locations, initiate elevator recall procedures to ground floor, place sensitive equipment in safe mode, secure chemicals and hazardous materials, and halt production lines to reduce damage.

Ipsos conducted the Eagle Hill public polling research in March as a survey of 1,005 interviews across the US adult population and 503 respondents in California. The results were weighted to reflect U.S. demographic factors, including age, income, the four national census regions and gender.

“KVIE was honored to partner with Cal OES to conduct this critical field trial of earthquake early warnings in California,” said David Lowe, president and general manager of KVIE. “This work is part of KVIE’s commitment to public service and public safety. We are proud to work with the state of California to help alert first responder agencies and the public of a pending earthquake, where seconds matter and lives are at stake.”

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