Updated: July 29, 2016 12:28:00 am
The National Capital Region’s first Early Earthquake Warning System was installed at the Haryana Institute of Public Administration (HIPA) building in Gurgaon recently. Procured by the Haryana government at a cost of about Rs 38 lakh, the system can issue a warning 30 seconds before a strong earthquake hits, and turn water and energy systems like electricity and gas supply off, minimising the possibility of loss of life.
So why is this important for Gurgaon?
Gurgaon and Delhi fall under Seismic Zone IV, which means they are vulnerable to high intensity earthquakes. Added to this is the fact that the city has over 1,000 highrises, housing and employing a large part of its population. Even a 30-second headstart before a major quake can be crucial in saving lives.
And why has it been set up at HIPA?
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Abhay Kumar Srivastava, head of HIPA’s Centre for Disaster Management, says the point is “not just to warn staff members and trainees in the building” but to also “raise awareness” — among them, and among visiting district officials, industrialists, private developers, and companies — about the benefits and salient features of the technology.
What is the functional principle on which the system is based?
The secondary seismic waves that follow the less intense primary waves are the really dangerous ones — with the potential to cause major damage and destruction. But the primary waves spread from the epicentre first, and based on certain characteristics, it is possible to predict the intensity of the secondary waves that can be expected to follow. The Early Earthquake Warning System aims to utilise these “characteristics”, as well as the time lag between the impact of the two waves, to warn people of the impending danger, give them a little time to protect themselves.
How does the system actually work?
It is installed on a building’s foundation pillars, after studying its layout, and set to a selected threshold level of intensity so the alarm is activated only when that level is crossed. It has two devices, called “master” and “submaster”, which detect earthquakes, and are connected to each other by “data lines”. The master device scans the submaster cyclically to decide whether or not the alarm needs to be triggered. When the predicted intensity of the secondary waves crosses the predetermined threshold level, the master triggers the alarm, which sets off the indoor and/or outdoor siren. It also triggers an alarm to activate the Energy Management System (EMS), which turns off the connected gas, electricity and water supply systems, parks elevators, opens safety doors and gates, and stops sensitive production machines.
What are the Gurgaon system’s features?
The threshold intensity for the predicted secondary wave has been set at 5 on the Richter Scale. The system does not yet have an outdoor, public alarm, a six-horn feature that sounds an alarm loud enough to warn people within 5 km of the impending danger, but officials say funds should be made available for it to be installed by March 2017.
Where else has such an earthquake security system been used?
The system is the result of a collaboration between Secty Electronics GmbH, a German company specialising in earthquake science, and GFZ, the German Research Centre for Geosciences. Officials claim Secty programmed into software an algorithm developed on the basis of years of study and research on earthquake warnings by GFZ. The system is currently in use in 25 countries other than India, including the USA, Germany, Chile, Pakistan, China and Mexico. It has been introduced in India through a collaboration with Terra Techcom Pvt Ltd, a quake warning and security company.
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