Sammamish Utility first to install earthquake early warning technology

SAMMAMISH, Wash. — The Northeast Sammamish Water District is trying out earthquake early warning technology at a pumping station that sits on top of a half-million gallons of water.

A simulation shows us what would happen if an earthquake were detected by the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

“The earthquake has hit, it's a 7.5 intensity and we have 15 seconds, and the pumps are shutting down and they are down with nine seconds,” said General Manager Laura Keough, reading the pump status board.

With the pumps shut down, water won't be sent through pipes that might be broken in a strong quake.

“If all the pipes in the district break and we can't get water to people's houses, then they could at least come to this facility (to) fill up jugs and have drinking water.”

The early warning system also protects the people who maintain the pumps and reservoirs. When a strong earthquake is detected, an app on their smartphones sounds the alarm.

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“Tell me do I need to run, where am I at, where I can stay depending on the situation,” said field staff lead Brian Teske.

Developed in part at the University of Washington, the early warning system has eight pilot projects in the Pacific Northwest so far.

“We’re working with WSDOT, we hope to work also with Sound Transit soon, we're working the Superintendent of Public Instruction and we're hoping to involve a number of school districts this year," Teske said.

It cost $10,000 to install the warning system at the Crest pumping station. The district plans to spend more to install it at more complicated facilities.

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