Last month's devastating 6.2-magnitude quake, which killed nearly 300 people and counting in central Italy, is a reminder of the potential hazards that come with living in a seismically active region. California has several massive faults that could unleash a powerful 8.0-magitude quake, while Washington state is at risk of an even larger 9.0-magnitude temblor.
Yet despite several rounds of funding, the high-risk region has much farther to go in rolling out a potentially life-saving warning system.
"The system is operational in an extremely limited sense," said Douglas Given, the Earthquake Early Warning coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In hopes of changing that, the geophysicist is leading the agency's efforts with university partners to develop and test a so-called ShakeAlert system on the West Coast.