A Network for Multi-hazard Monitoring and Warning

Commission Grantee UCSD/SIO HPWREN

Leveraging a Network for Multi-hazard Monitoring and Warning


In 2000 the National Science Foundation funded the Supercomputer Center at UCSD to deploy HPWREN, the High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network. This network provides network support for cameras and sensors in the field on a wireless system spanning San Diego County and beyond, enabling seismic, acoustic, weather, and fire monitoring via a mix of sensors and cameras. Video and weather from the network is available in near real time at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu and seismic data is available at http://anf.ucsd.edu/events. The network currently covers most of San Diego County and much of Imperial County and has extensions into Riverside County. It has wireless backbone speeds up to 200+ megabits per second, fast enough for high-definition 4K video.

This mix of seismic, weather, and fire monitoring technologies mirrors that provided by the Seismology Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), (http://www.alertwildfire.org/tahoe/) and researchers from UNR and UCSD/SIO have partnered for years on improving technologies that can help save lives. In fact, the UNR system in Lake Tahoe and Nevada has been credited with the early detection of more than 300 fires in the region over the past two years.

These two teams have pioneered the use of robust radio networks for multi-hazard monitoring.  Leveraging the high fixed cost of the towers and radio equipment to support earthquake, fire, and other risks lowers the cost for each of the different warning systems and enables larger, and more resilient, systems to be deployed. Given the recent wildfires in California and our investment in separate seismic and fire warning systems, it is a good model to consider for the State.


High Tech Cameras Used for Early Fire Detection

Commission Grantee UCSD ALERT

Looking Out to Protect California’s Citizens


In November of 2017 the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and the Seismology Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), unveiled the new Alert SDG&E Cameras. These 15 high-definition cameras will improve public safety by livestreaming images from some of San Diego’s most fire-prone areas. This new system provides firefighters and the public with a virtual fire lookout tower equipped with real-time and on-demand time-lapse imagery up to 12 hours in the past to spot the first signs of fire ignition. Based on the UCSD/Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN), which also includes seismic monitoring for earthquake early warning and has been supported by the Commission, these new mountaintop cameras enable early detection of fires in some of the most remote locations in Southern California.

Alert SDG&E (originally named AlertSoCal but renamed after generous support from San Diego Gas and Electric.

was developed by SIO and UNR and expands Southern California’s state-of-the-art earthquake and weather monitoring system to better detect fires in real time before they spread. The HPWREN network currently includes more than 64 fixed mountaintop cameras positioned in 16 remote locations across San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial counties to support public safety operations. New Alert SDG&E 4K high-definition, pan-tilt-zoom cameras, built on a design by UNR, will augment the existing HPWREN cameras.

“This technology brings us one step closer to providing public safety officials with an integrated hazards network to revolutionize how we detect and fight wildfire and other natural hazards in the United States,” said SIO research geophysicist Frank Vernon, the lead researcher of the HPWREN network.

Priority Recommendations from the PEER Study on the South Napa Earthquake


The M 6.0 South Napa Earthquake of August 24, 2014, was the first earthquake to strike a major metropolitan area in the State of California in over two decades. During that quiescent period, the State’s population grew significantly, thousands of new businesses were started and thousands of new buildings were built. This means that the 2014 South Napa quake has provided an opportunity to learn about how we plan for, build for, and respond to earthquakes, as well as educate millions of Californians who are ‘new’ to earthquakes about them.

In October 2014, the Seismic Safety Commission held a public hearing in American Canyon, California, to better understand impacts and lessons learned from the South Napa earthquake. The Commission engaged its longtime partner, the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center based at UC Berkeley, to research and report on the impacts and lessons learned from the earthquake.

The 55 page report contains 12 “Priority Recommendations,” which are important for anyone living or working in California. The majority is in the ”structures” category, since improvements in our built environment has perhaps the most direct positive impact on safety and recovery. These are presented below and organized under the same headings as the report.

  1. Geosciences
    • Identify the locations of complex and integrated fault zones in the state, like the West Napa Fault Zone, and prioritize these for evaluation and mapping and potential designation as Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zones.
    • Evaluate the effects of current amendments and exemptions under the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zone Act and accompanying regulations, and study ways to better regulate and fund geologic investigations and structural mitigation in Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zones.
  2. Infrastructure
    • Ensure that all State-required gas safety plans address the mitigation of system risks to seismic hazards.
    • Convene a State task force that includes local water and wastewater providers as well as fire departments across the state to identify vulnerabilities, mitigation options, and financial mechanisms to enhance the seismic resilience of local water and wastewater systems, particularly in areas vulnerable to widespread ground failure and that lack alternative water supplies for firefighting.
  3. Structures
    • Work with FEMA, the California Building Officials, and other professional engineering and architectural organizations to: ensure that curricula for training and certification of safety assessors are effective and more widely implemented, particularly for local government personnel; improve protocols for deploying and compensating safety assessors; expand the use of Building Occupancy Resumption Programs; and grant safety assessment authority to the Division of the State Architect for public K-14 schools and State-owned buildings.
    • Work with the California Building Officials and professional engineering and architectural organizations, including the American Institute of Architects California Chapter and Structural Engineers Association of California, to develop guidance for local jurisdictions on effective coordination and management of post- earthquake safety assessment processes.
    • Develop guidance and training for local fire departments and building owners and operators on alternative procedures to safely turn off damaged sprinkler systems following earthquakes.
    • Evaluate and enhance, as needed, training and inspection materials for school districts and staff to seismically secure non-structural systems, equipment, contents and furnishings in public and private schools.
  4. People and Businesses
    • Establish a State task force to consider the risks posed to the state by the large proportion of uninsured residents and businesses in high-seismic hazard areas, and identify options for improving the take-up, affordability, and terms of earthquake insurance coverage for California residents and businesses, as well as alternative earthquake recovery funding sources for both residents and businesses.
    • Evaluate and enhance, as needed, penalties and other consumer protections against post-disaster scamming by contractors and cost inflation.
  5. Government and Institutions
    • Strengthen seismic performance standards and contingency planning for all State and local correctional facilities.
    • Review and revise, as needed, State regulations guiding the transfer and housing of inmates in county jails during times of emergency.

Key Findings from the PEER Report on the 2014 South Napa Earthquake


The M 6.0 South Napa Earthquake of August 24, 2014 took the lives of two people, injured 300 others, and caused moderate to severe damage to more than 2,000 structures. The Commission engaged the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) to research the impacts and lessons learned from the quake and prepare a comprehensive report.

The report is organized around the areas of Geosciences, Infrastructure, Buildings, People and Businesses, and Government and Institutions.

The full report is 55 pages with great research and detail.  In a later Post we will cover the recommendations, here we provide some of the key findings:

  1. Geosciences
  • Afterslip (slippage on the fault after the principal earthquake) on the West Napa fault produced further damage and necessitated regional-scale on-going monitoring.
  • The S earthquake identified some critical gaps in mapping coverage and guidance that affected the abilities of city, county, and State agencies to identify and map hazard zones.
  1. Infrastructure
  • Investments in instrumentation, earthquake alerting systems, and advance remote sensing techniques plus the activation of the California Earthquake Clearinghouse all were valuable in assisting damage assessment and emergency response.
  • The earthquake demonstrated the long-term benefits of the State’s $12 billion highway bridge earthquake strengthening program.
  • The earthquake highlighted the vulnerability of natural gas transmission and distributions systems to earthquake-related ground failure.
  • The earthquake highlighted the vulnerability of water and wastewater systems to earthquakes, plus the hazards that earthquake-related water-system failures can pose.
  1. Structures
  • The earthquake helped to identify important gaps in building safety evaluations and procedures to barricade unsafe areas.
  • The City of Napa’s program to seismically retrofit unreinforced masonry buildings was successful in reducing damage and the risk to life safety posed by these buildings.
  • While modern buildings generally met or exceeded code performance standards in the Mw6.0 earthquake, damage to non-structural components was the greatest contributor to property losses.
  • There was generally good performance across a range of wood-frame residential construction vintages and styles. The vast majority of damage was caused by two well-known seismic deficiencies: unbraced chimneys and cripple walls foundations.
  • The significant damage to manufactured housing in the 2014 South Napa earthquake was almost exclusively associated with support systems rather than the homes themselves.
  1. People and Businesses
  • Deaths and injuries sustained in the earthquake point to continuing gaps in public awareness and education on earthquake safety and preparedness.
  • The earthquake highlighted gaps in earthquake insurance coverage for both homeowners and businesses.
  • The delay of the federal Individual Assistance program hindered recovery.
  1. Government and Institutions
  • The state’s Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) was effective in mobilizing a multi-jurisdictional, multi-level emergency response but significant areas for improvement and training have been identified.
  • The earthquake identified problems with the damage assessment and declaration processes and financing of local government post-disaster assistance.
  • The earthquake highlighted significant gaps in contingency planning at many key government and critical facility operations.
  • More pre-disaster planning and training for post-disaster recovery is needed at both the State and local levels.

Major earthquakes can cause damage and loss, but California has a history of studying and learning from earthquake to make our State safer for residents and businesses.  The Commission supported study by PEER is the most recent example of such efforts.

Commissioner Kit Miyamoto and Learnings from the 2017 Mexico Earthquakes

Seismic Safety Commissioner Interviewed on Sacramento Channel 10 and Discusses Lessons Learned From Mexican Earthquakes

In November 2017, Channel 10 in Sacramento ran a story in their “Beyond the Headlines” series featuring Kit Miyamoto, structural engineer and member of the California Seismic Safety Commission. Commissioner Miyamoto, an expert on the structural dimensions of earthquake preparedness and safety, was interviewed by reporter Lilia Luciano, who accompanied him to impacted sites in Mexico City during the earthquake recovery efforts.

In the interview, Commissioner Miyamoto identifies major structural failures in Mexico that could have been minimized by seismic retrofit. He also explains the parallels between the underlying geology of the impacted areas in Mexico and Sacramento, highlighting how buildings in the State’s capital are at similar risk to those that failed during the Mexico quakes. He also explains that many buildings in Sacramento would benefit from the kinds of retrofit he recommended for Mexico and discusses the value of investing in seismic retrofit.

Commissioner Miyamoto also identifies the benefits, in terms of lower injury and death, from Mexico’s Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) System. California is working on a similar system for statewide deployment under the direction of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) with the support of the Seismic Safety Commission.

The Benefits of Earthquake Early Warning Systems in California

Commission Grantee PEER

California Earthquake Early Warning System (EEWS) Benefit Study

California is a seismically active state, and over the course of the State’s history, the loss of life and property due to earthquakes has been significant. Although there is much one can do to prepare for a quake, until recently there was little one could do to anticipate an earthquake and better prepare to respond in the initial seconds of the event.

Since 2013, Cal OES has been leading a public-private partnership to develop a statewide EEWS with support from the Seismic Safety Commission and other State and Federal agencies. In 2015 the Commission and Cal OES contracted with the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER) to undertake a study of the benefits of the EEWS. This comprehensive report, the result of six months of interviews and detailed analysis, identifies the benefits of the EEWS and the key issues for implementation and successful operations, as well as a review of EEWS technology and systems deployed around the world.

A key finding was that “organizations unanimously perceived the overall societal benefits from having a statewide EEWS as very high. A few seconds to tens of seconds of advance warning time could help thousands, possibly millions, of people to take precautionary actions and Drop, Cover, and Hold On (DCHO) before strong shaking begins.” But the benefits go beyond public safety to the protection of critical infrastructures, such as power and transportation; enhanced safety for higher-risk industries such as refining and chemicals; and, especially, personal safety for those in high-risk occupations.

The research based and objective report is short and easy to read and comprehensive enough to answer almost any question one might have about EEWS in California. It is an important report and one that robustly supports the deployment of the EEWS and provides detailed guidelines to help insure its success.