Above, Eagle Rock High School students hunker under their desks during a recent earthquake drill.

Click on the photo to watch a test of the ShakeAlert early-warning system.

By Ellen Morgan
Office of Communications

With deadly earthquakes recently devastating Mexico and Japan, residents in Los Angeles have been wondering when the “big one” will hit Southern California?”

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Caltech and other agencies have been preparing for that event, developing an early warning system known as ShakeAlert for California, Oregon and Washington. In collaboration with L.A. Unified’s Office of Emergency Services, Eagle Rock Middle and Senior High School is among the campuses selected to test the system in schools.

“When I received the e-mail requesting schools who were interested in piloting the program, I responded immediately,” said Principal Mylene Keipp said. “I constantly seek resources, such as the latest technology, for our 90-year old facility. The extra seconds can make a huge difference for campus safety.

“When I get the warning, it will give me time to alert the entire school,” Keipp said. “It’s only seconds, but I can make a school-wide announcement to drop, cover, and hold-on.”

A team of science teachers at the school has also developed a curriculum that teaches students about key principles of earthquake science, how ShakeAlert works and how to protect themselves when the early-warning system is triggered.

“We let our students and families know that an earthquake early warning system is an excellent investment, providing precious seconds for preemptive action that may prevent injury and save lives,” said science teacher Ali Kobassi, who spearheaded the project with colleagues Sara Ramos, Moises DeLeon, Nara Brombach and Tim Sweeney.

Embedded in more than a dozen computers located throughout the school, the ShakeAlert program sounds an alarm when sensors detect the ground motion that precedes the arrival of a destructive quake.

“The early warning earthquake system is a very unique system, and I am glad that we have it here at the school,” said Eagle Rock senior Joshua Camacho-Snyder. “It makes us feel safe and helps us get to a protected area. After learning more about this system, I believe that every classroom in every school should have it. This system can literally save lives.”