A professor of astrophysics at the University of California Berkley has created an earthquake alert alarm made from easily purchasable components that cost him just $110.
Joshua Bloom created the device using a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, an SD card, a Wi-Fi adapter, a battery and a speaker, placed within a cardboard takeaway container. The alarm relies on signals from ShakeAlert: an earthquake early warning system currently being tested in California by Bloom and a team of seismologists. The system uses motion sensors to detect the fast moving P-waves within a tremor that occur before the slower and more destructive S-waves. Once a signal is received, the alarm will sound through the speakers, giving a five-second warning before the shaking begins. This may not seem like a long time, but it could enable someone to move away from a window, turn off a computer system or stop a train from entering a tunnel.
Bloom hopes the device will highlight the value of the ShakeAlert system and the ease with which it can be accompanied by an earthquake alarm for someone’s home.
Photo credit: P K / Flickr
If mass produced, the system could be sold or provided to residents in earthquake-prone areas at a similar price to fire alarms or carbon monoxide detectors, and be installed just as easily.
The technology could also be applied to other early alert systems that lack public devices, such as radiation leaks in nearby nuclear plants, tsunamis or tornado touch-down spots, Bloom believes.