The U.S. Geological Survey is moving its earthquake early warning system into production with a $4.9 million in awards to research partners and $1 million in new sensor equipment.

The system, called ShakeAlert, uses ground-based sensors to identify and characterize an earthquake within seconds after it begins, and deliver warnings to people and infrastructure in harm’s way. It detects an earthquake’s initial P-wave energy, which rarely causes damage, to estimate the location and the magnitude of the earthquake. It then sends a warning to local populations before the arrival of the S-wave — the strong shakes that cause most of the damage.

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