On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council Information, Technology and General Services Committee approved funding for a long-awaited earthquake early warning system for Angelenos.

The contract with AT&T and the GRYD Foundation has been funded for $300,000, with the money coming from the Annenberg Foundation for the creation and deployment of the Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) System Mobile Application. The system would send residents mobile phone alerts just before an earthquake, thanks to underground sensors developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

This system isn’t the only one of its kind. After April’s magnitude 5.3 temblor in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, many residents credited EarlyWarningLabs’ QuakeAlert, currently in beta testing, with giving them heads-up moments before the shaking started.

“I had 34 seconds warning,” Los Angeles resident Alissa Walker said on Twitter April 5. “[That’s] enough time to drop, cover, and hold on, which I would have done if I knew shaking was going to be strong.”

Both QuakeAlert and L.A.’s forthcoming EEW app rely on ShakeAlert, developed by the USGS. According to spokesman Robert de Groot, ShakeAlert has a long way to go before it’s ready for full deployment. Only about half the sensor network has been built due to funding delays.

However, Los Angeles leaders such as Mayor Eric Garcetti have said that for Southern California residents, the system is essential. Garcetti set big goals in his State of the City address earlier this year.

“By the end of 2018, we will deploy an earthquake early warning system to every corner of this city, in schools, at businesses, even on your smartphone,” Garcetti said. “It will give you a head start when an earthquake is coming — precious seconds that save lives.”

De Groot said that most of 2018 will be devoted to testing, but the system will be coming soon, no matter the funding problems.

“Southern California has between 20 and 30 earthquakes a day,” de Groot said. “So I think there’s clear need for this.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the source of funding for the program.


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