EQC and Massey University are working on a project to create a low-cost community-based earthquake early warning system in New Zealand.
Led by the Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University, the project will distribute low-cost seismometers to a number of communities, enlisting the public’s help as citizen seismologists to create and test an earthquake early warning sensor network.
“At present, there is no earthquake early warning system in New Zealand,” said Raj Prasanna from Massey University, the project’s lead researcher. “In this research project, we want to explore the feasibility of developing an early warning system for earthquakes informed by low-cost internet-based seismometers. The sensors would be installed in community owned buildings to generate appropriate warning solutions for members of the community.”
The research team recently met with residents in Lower Hutt to learn their thoughts and concerns about the project.
“Ideally, the sensors hosted by the citizen seismologists would be configured as a network of sensors to test different detection algorithms,” Prasanna said. “The data gathered from the community will help us explore the feasibility of generating warnings using these low-cost sensors.”
While the warning may only be 10 seconds in advance, this will still give time for people to perform the ‘drop, cover and hold’ safety action, he added.
The project builds on previous EQC research by Dr Julia Becker from Joint Centre for Disaster Research at Massey University. Becker’s study found that there is strong interest among New Zealand residents, businesses and agencies in an early warning system for earthquakes.
Prasanna’s team is currently testing several ready-made low-cost sensors, and is aiming to install around 20 to 25 of these in the field by the middle of this year. According to the researchers, the sensors will be connected through an internet-based network. In case a strong earthquake takes down part of the network, the remaining sensors will automatically adapt and reconnect to those with power.