Canadian Mining Journal


SEISMIC RISK: BC earthquake warning technology goes global with SGS Canada partnership

VANCOUVER – Weir-Jones Engineering and SGS Canada have entered into a global preferred service provider agreement that will bring affordable and reliable BC developed earthquake early warning system (EEWS) technology, known as ShakeAlarm®, to countries with high seismic risk that currently do not have proven technology and systems in place that will protect lives in the event of a major earthquake.

The ShakeAlarm® technology can provide up to a 90 second warning of a pending earthquake by determining magnitude before it hits. The system developed by Weir-Jones Engineering has been operational at the George Massey Tunnel in Richmond, BC, since 2009. The system is designed to shut the tunnel down and allow traffic to clear to curtail any potential danger. For more than seven years this system has operated without any false alarms, a reliability level of better than 99.99999%.

“ShakeAlarm is an outstanding example of the exceptional work that Weir-Jones does in the area of movement and stability detection” said James MacFarlane, VP of Industrial Services for SGS Canada. “It is reliable, cost effective, can provide the on-site analysis of P waves in less than 200 milliseconds and it is affordable. It is a product that will save lives and we are going to move it forward internationally through our vast global network,” added MacFarlane.

There are two waves that are generated when an earthquake occurs. The first wave, the P wave, is a very fast moving non-damaging compression wave. The second wave is the S wave or shear wave and it is the wave that we feel and does all the damage in a major earthquake. The ShakeAlarm system proprietary technology developed by Weir-Jones measures the P wave, analyses it in  a fraction of a second, and immediately sends out warnings of the coming S or shear wave.

Depending on site, facility or population needs, the signal can trigger specific actions such as turning off gas lines and shutting off water and electrical utilities. If applied to emergency services, it gives first responders an early warning that can also be used to automatically open fire hall doors so firemen can get their equipment out, turn on generators at hospitals and bring systems like SkyTrain and the Canada Line to a controlled stop or to the nearest transit station.

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