Earthquake Early Warning!

More than 6,000 pipeline failures are expected in the Northwest following a subduction zone earthquake

More than 6,000 pipeline failures are expected in the Northwest following a subduction zone earthquake

ShakeAlert is a new earthquake early warning system available now for the west coast of the United States. Developed by the United States Geological Survey, ShakeAlert was designed to give advance warning of earthquakes so that lives could be saved, and damage could be minimized following a subduction zone quake.

Varius Inc has a partnership with the USGS and is available to plan and design how early warning technology can be used in your water or sewer system to save thousands of lives and millions of dollars in assets following a Cascadia Subduction Zone quake.

Municipal water and sewer systems are perfect candidates for ShakeAlert, as most systems can be hardened immediately before a quake to minimize damage during and after the quake. This maintains the lifeline services needed following a natural disaster and completes a utilities’ obligation to provide essential utility service to their customers.

ShakeAlert is added to your water or sewer system via a PLC or desktop software program which, in turn, interfaces with your existing SCADA control system or building management system.

Following an early-warning alarm, your control system would quickly and automatically initiate predetermined shutdown and isolation actions so that your pumps are stopped, and your pipelines are protected. This saves potable water for first responders and for long-term drinking supply, saves water and sewer pumps and motors from rotational damage, and can harden your buildings and facilities to minimize fires.

ShakeAlert is a publicly owned and financed system. Service is available now.

Varius is available to assist with identifying how ShakeAlert can be used in your water or sewer system and how this valuable technology can protect your customers. Contact us now for a presentation or additional information.


Dan Ervin, P.E.

(877) 827-4874


Frequently Asked Questions:

What is ShakeAlert?

ShakeAlert is a new earthquake early warning system designed to alert communities in Washington, Oregon, and California of an earthquake before the shaking occurs. For the first time, west coast residents will have early warning of an earthquake.

Is ShakeAlert new?

Yes, this is new technology and new capability and was first made available in mid-2017.

How does early warning work?

An earthquake creates two waves that travel through the rock and soil. An acoustic wave which travels fast (but does no damage) and a shear wave which travels slow (and creates the shaking). By placing sensors close to the epicenter of an earthquake, the acoustic wave can be “sensed” and used to offer a warning of the slower shear wave. The USGS currently has hundreds of sensors installed up and down the west coast “listening” for an earthquake, which then triggers the alarm.

How much warning is available?

It depends on where you are and where the earthquake starts. For most Washington communities there will be several minutes of warning before the large Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. There will be less warning for our historically smaller quakes, anywhere from several seconds to a minute.

Are a few minutes of warning helpful?

Yes! In fact, a few minutes, even a few seconds, can make a major difference. You could close a reservoir valve to prevent the contents from emptying out. You could disconnect power to prevent electrical fires. You could stop pumps and motors to minimize rotational damage. You could isolate chemical feed systems to prevent hazardous material spills. The actions are too numerous to list but could make the difference between being in control and living with a catastrophe. 

How do I participate?

You will need a device or software program installed in your facility to connect to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network computer servers (these are located at the University of Washington). This device or program will in turn connect to your SCADA or control system and automatically initiate predetermined control actions following an earthquake alarm. Varius Inc has a partnership with the USGS and PNSN to provide this service and to help your organization design the controls necessary and help determine what actions should be taken and when.

How much does it cost?

Varius will charge a consulting fee to design the device or software and to perform the planning needed to implement the alarm signal. This is done under a conventional consulting contract. The ShakeAlert signal is a public service and there are no connection or maintenance fees for accessing or using that technology.

I would like more information, what do I do next?

Contac Varius Inc. We can arrange for a detailed presentation at your  facility to describe the opportunities in greater detail and to answer any additional questions you have.


Contact us:

Dan Ervin, P.E.

(877) 827-4874