Baja to get quake detection system

U.S.-Mexico project to benefit border region

SAN DIEGO.- On the day before Californians practiced for "the big one," U.S. and Mexican authorities announced a joint project to expand seismic monitoring in Baja California.

"Science does not have borders," said Pat Abbott, a geologist at San Diego State University.

When the deadly 7.2 earthquake shook Baja California on Easter Day in 2010, Mexican authorities did not have immediate scientific information to analyze its intensity. This slowed down efforts to evaluate the quake's impact on people and infrastructure.

The binational project aims to alleviate that by providing seismic monitoring stations linked to a new computer network, plus training and support.

"Real-time data provided from these devices installed in Mexico will be used to protect lives and property in both Northern Baja California and Southern California," according to a statement issued Wednesday by the U.S. Geological Survey, which will play a leading role in the project.

The U.S. is providing $500,000 in equipment and training, while Mexico is investing millions of dollars in a system to prepare for quakes and other disasters.

Abbot said the network will link experts on both sides of the border and should be operational by next year.

In Mexico, the data will be analyzed by scientists from the research center known as CICESE, while in California it will be reviewed by the USGS in Pasadena.

Abbot reiterated that the Southern California region was overdue for a major earthquake.

"It could come 50 years from now or it could be this afternoon," the geologist said. "Every year that passes we get closer to the big one."

With that in mind, authorities held "The Great California ShakeOut" on Thursday. At 10:20 a.m., an estimated 8.5 million people from one end of the state to the other practiced how to protect themselves in case of a powerful quake.

In San Diego County, 673,000 people, in schools, businesses, government offices, and other places, participated in the drill.

One of those places was Taft Middle School in Serra Mesa, where 547 students participated in the "drop, cover and hold" drill.

At precisely 10:20 a.m., the students stopped what they were doing and ducked under their desks while covering their head with their hands. After the drill, the students left their classrooms and gathered in an evacuation area in the school's patio.

When Abbot was asked how prepared local residents were for a major quake, he said that every day a little more.

"That's the value of doing drills. If we do them at least once a year we will know what to do when the quake strikes," he said.

He was asked what lessons should residents of the border region take away from last year's Easter Day quake, which killed two people and caused millions in damages in the Mexicali area.

"An earthquake that prompted people to be aware of where they live and how much they have to prepare."


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