Wednesday, 28 October 2009 5:00 AM

Scientists Working on the First Worldwide Earthquake Alert System

Scientists are reportedly working on the first Worldwide Earthquake Alert System to help us better respond to disasters.

According to the report by Fox News, the 'non-profit organization of scientists and researchers is well into a five-year project to gather existing knowledge about earthquake-prone areas and the risks involved' and the Global Earthquake Model or GEM will 'then take those volumes of information and - using a complex software program - create a worldwide picture of the planet's stress-prone areas, the risks to life and structures in vulnerable areas, and the ways to reduce that risk, including better building techniques and emergency preparedness'.

In other words, a very comprehensive database of historical information, as well as data on faults and geology, should help predict the likelihood of future earthquakes.

More importantly, the entire model and all the data collected will be freely available to private organizations, individuals, researchers, and state and local governments looking for objective information on which to base their plans.


According to the report, there is currently no single source for such data, and 'what is available is limited to particular areas, according to Ross Stein, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a co-founder of GEM'.

"Ninety percent of the research and mitigation efforts are conducted in and for the developed countries of the world, but 90 percent of the deaths and damage are suffered by the developing countries of the world," Stein says. The GEM team believes that won't change unless information about the risks of quakes is widely disseminated: "Unless someone is convinced of a risk, they won't do anything about it."

According to the report, experts in the field are concerned that some of the world's most densely populated and earthquake-prone areas have little information to go on and yet are building aggressively and even in areas well informed of the danger, earthquake preparedness is a constant concern.

To improve the chances of surviving an earthquake, Stein says, "we must engage scientists and engineers in the quake-prone countries of the world, give them state-of-the-art tools and data, and help them build their national models" in order to make it more difficult for governments to dismiss the danger.

GEM currently has dozens of partners and supporters ranging from academic institutions to global insurance companies. Officially, seven countries and five companies are sponsoring the project to the tune of $30 million. Stein estimates the group will need another $5 million to complete the project. Right now, the major work being done by an international group stretching from Berlin to Zürich is focused on creating the software tools to build the seismic hazard model.


Recently, the region experienced a number of earthquakes, some of which triggered the tsunami that devastated parts of American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga and caused the region to be on tsunami alerts.

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