By Len Ramirez

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A decade after development began on an earthquake early warning system in California, the project is still years away from full implementation.

Mexico City has an earthquake warning system which apparently worked.

The alert system resulted in sirens sounding and gave people a precious few seconds to stream out of their buildings into the safety of the giant open square “El Zocalo.”

The system was designed after the devastating 1985 Mexican earthquake and a similar system is up and running in Japan.

But California’s early warning system called “Shake Alert” is still in a very limited testing phase.

So far, only emergency responders and transportation providers like BART are on the system.

The system has already been tested in a real life situation, the 2014 Napa quake, where it gave the BART control center a nine second warning.

“We’ve got very good capital investment so far. But the long term operation and maintenance sort of funds have not fully been identified yet,” said Dr. Jennifer Strauss with the UC Berkeley Seismology Lab.

Researchers at the UC Berkeley Siesmology Lab say it could be five years or more before the system can be rolled out to people’s smartphones because the technology isn’t there yet.

“Best-case scenario is basically that the earthquake alert is baked on your phone. And your phone would just receive a message to activate that alert…push notifications, Amber Alerts, all of those current technologies we have are a little too slow,” Strauss said.

There is a planned regional roll out of the Shake Alert system that will begin next year but there are not enough sirens in the area to make it widespread.

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