LOS ANGELES - The California Legislature approved a bill that would require development of an earthquake early warning system similar to what exists in Japan, Mexico and other quake-prone countries.
The bill advanced in Thursday's last hours of the legislative session and was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Oct. 13 to act on it.
The U.S. has lagged behind other countries in creating a public alert system, which provides seconds of warning after a fault ruptures. For the past several years, the U.S. Geological Survey and several universities have been fine-tuning a test alert system that only broadcasts warnings to select users.
Scientists and public safety officials have urged for the creation of a system that would use a network of sensors to detect the start of a quake, the strength and provide useful seconds of warning.
While a few seconds may not sound like much time, supporters say it's enough notice for trains to slow down, utilities to shut off gas lines or people to duck under a table to ride out the shaking.
Early warning can't predict earthquakes before they happen and is useless at the quake's origin since there's no time to detect passing waves.
Researchers previously estimated it would cost about $80 million to build a statewide alert system. The bill would require state emergency officials to determine how to fund the system by 2016.