Twelve seconds doesn’t seem like a very long time; however, during a natural disaster, 12 seconds could save countless lives, reduce injuries, and save millions of dollars in infrastructure damage. It is for this reason that the Washington Emergency Management Division is seeking businesses and schools to serve as pilots for an earthquake early warning system.

Damages from the 2001 Nisqually earthquake in Washington and Oregon exceeded $4 billion and injured more than 400 individuals, according to the Division. However, had an earthquake early warning system been in place during that 6.8-magnitude earthquake, it would have provided advanced warning.

In anticipation of “The Really Big One,” this advanced warning would give businesses extra time to trigger automatic reactions. It could slow light rail and train systems, close natural gas lines, alert hospital staff to arrest intricate surgical procedures, and warn personnel or students to seek cover.

This earthquake early warning system, dubbed ShakeAlert, is not available for general public use at this time. However, businesses or schools interested in participating can email Earthquake Program Manager Maximilian Dixon at or call (253) 512-7017.