Israel, Which Sits on an Active Fault Line, to Install Early-warning System for Earthquakes

Nanometrics and its partner Motorola Israel will provide the system that will give people time to enter reinforced rooms or leave for open areas outdoors

File photo of rescue workers practicing for an earthquake in Tel Aviv
Alon Ron

Canadian company Nanometrics has been selected to install an earthquake early-warning system in Israel that gives a 10-to-30-second alert between the epicenter’s first wave and the destructive wave that follows.

The Ottawa-based company, which won a bidding process along with its partner Motorola Israel, is expected to have the system functional within a year at the cost of 35 million shekels ($9.8 million).

The system will include 120 stations in three earthquake-prone areas: the Dead Sea valley, the Jordan Valley and the Haifa area. Sixty-five of the stations will be new, while the rest will be upgraded existing stations.

Information on an epicenter’s first wave will be sent to two command and control centers, one at the Geological Survey of Israel in Jerusalem. These centers will then send out a warning before a destructive wave.

Currently, Israel has seismic stations that send earthquake data to the Geophysical Institute of Israel. The government first decided five years ago that the country needed an enhanced system.

The installation of the system, scheduled to begin this summer, will be done in conjunction with the Home Front Command and the interministerial committee on earthquakes. After installation, the system will be tested for as long as two years; for example, to address problems such as potential false alarms.

During the first stage, the system will be connected to educational institutes and will later be connected to power stations and other key infrastructure. Eventually it will provide warnings to the general public.

In its early stages, the system will provide warnings using a wireless system and loudspeakers in buildings. Later the service will be extended to provide warnings through other forms of media including an app.

The warnings will give people time to enter reinforced rooms or leave for open areas outdoors. Meanwhile, critical infrastructure will be shut down. The system will be less efficient in the areas nearest an earthquake’s epicenter.

Only a limited number of countries have a nationwide early-warning system for earthquakes. In fact, President Donald Trump's budget would drop federal funding for such a system being developed for the U.S. West Coast, The Los Angeles Times reported last week.

Israel opted for such a system to help compensate for a shortfall in the number of earthquake-proof buildings, and because the country is located on the Dead Sea rift fault line. The valley is part of the fault that runs from East Africa to Syria.