PRESS RELEASE - October 16, 2020 Early Earthquake Warning Systems Installed in every Fire Station

The Fire District may become one of the first public safety organizations in the world to provide an early earthquake warning system to alert its firefighters that an earthquake is coming!

In 2019, the Menlo Park Fire Protection District proudly announced that it had the only Fire Station (Station 6) in Northern California connected to the States USGS Shake Alert Sensor Network via a new privately operated Sky Alert interface. The new system alerted the firefighters that an earthquake was coming, automatically opening apparatus doors, turning on lights and turning off gas appliances.

The Fire District was so happy with the system at Fire Station 6 located in downtown Menlo Park, that it installed it in its Fire Station 2, located in East Palo Alto. Both Stations were newly rebuilt and the technology easily interfaced with each stations communications and emergency incident alerting systems, thanks to some help from local vendor, TEA Radio Communications. But the that left five additional older Fire District Stations, that were equally vulnerable but even less equipped with both modern technology and that were not built to newer seismic codes and standards, without the safety benefits of early earthquake warning firefighters could need, when seconds could truly make a difference.

Fire Chief Schapelhouman said “in many ways our older facilities are even more vulnerable than our newer ones, so we had to figure out how to essentially dumb down, or throttle back, what the Sky Alert interface could actually do. In some cases it was like combining a 55 Chevy with a Tesla, both look good and work great on their own, but how do you put them together so it will work. In the end, we focused on the early fire station earthquake alerting feature, which allowed us the install this system in our remaining Fire Stations 1, 3, 5 and 77. We did not install it at Station 4, only because this 70 year old facility is next in-line to be torn down and rebuilt. I rode out the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake at Fire Station 1, any type of early warning will help our firefighters protect themselves and then be able to take immediate action to insure we’re still there to quickly respond to the communities needs and emergencies”.

The Fire District paid $12,450 per Station to install the fully capable early earthquake alerting systems at its Fire Stations 2 and 6. Based upon the more limited capability for its older Fire Station, the District paid $2,000 per Station. It pays an annual monitoring and maintenance fee of $11,000 per facility, which will be reduced as more customers come on line.

SkyAlert founder and CEO Alejandro Cantu  said “We can distribute an earthquake warning massively and instantaneously,” said. “We provide an audible warning—so people know it is coming, how strong it will be, and how much time they have, so they can protect themselves. We can also protect assets—turn off gas valves, turn off machinery—things that would be hard to do in that situation by hand. In the case of a fire station, Cantu said, “We turn on emergency lights so the firefighters don’t get injured, turn off the gas so the firehouse doesn’t catch fire itself, and open the doors so the fire engines can get out. SkyAlert’s technology has been evolving for years in Mexico. Over time, the company extended what was initially a pager-based emergency alert system to a comprehensive earthquake alert system that includes a proprietary network of seismic sensors. Recently, Cantu’s efforts got the attention of researchers and investors in the U.S.—and an opportunity to give SkyAlert’s IoT technology far broader reach. It has been integrated with the U.S. Geographical Service’s (USGS’s) ShakeAlert, an earthquake warning system on the West Coast of the United States that started making its alerts available for public distribution in some areas late last year.

A short 30 second video clip is available upon request.

Pictured above – Fire Station 6 in Down Town Menlo Park was one of the first fire stations in the State equipped with an early earthquake warning system - Credit Menlo Fire

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