Israeli Gov't to Issue Bid for National Earthquake Warning Center

Stations around the country would provide Israelis with a 10- to 30-second warning that an earthquake is about to hit.

Dan Keinan

The government will issue an international request for bids in September for the first stage of a national earthquake warning system as part of an effort to have the system operational as soon as possible.

Next week the National Planning and Building Council is also scheduled to consider a request that would cut short the planning approval process for the construction of up to 140 seismic stations required around the country by the system. It is expected that the system will provide a 10- to 30-second warning that an earthquake is to hit the heavily populated coastal region of the country. Israel has been hit by a relatively major earthquake roughly once in a century. The last sizeable quake was in 1927.

Planning for the warning network has been under way for several years, but the pace of the project has been stepped up over the past two years. The seismic stations will be positioned within 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) from geological fault lines in the Dead Sea region and in the Gilboa Carmel rift in the north.

The Geological Survey institute of the National Infrastructure, Water and Energy Ministry is to issue the international bid to plan and build the network of seismic stations. The government will have to decide how the warnings will be transmitted to members of the public, in an effort to spare lives and damage to property.

The principle behind the warning system is to detect the initial shockwaves of a quake that precede its destructive phase. Although the advanced warning to the coastal region would be expected to give members of the public in the coastal region 10 to 30 seconds, in the Jerusalem area, it will be a matter of just a few seconds. Where the advance warning is long enough, the system will give people time to get out of buildings and idle machinery. The warning network is expected to be deployed first in educational institutions.