July 2004

Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.

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 Introducing Earthquake Intelligence in Building Automation

Earthquakes are not rare events. On a yearly basis, 70 to 75 damaging earthquakes occur throughout the world.


Holly Stump,
V.P. Marketing,
Seismic Warning Systems, Inc.

Imagine… A 6.5 quake is imminent. Automatically an alarm sounds, lights go on, elevators and other systems go into safety mode, access doors open, gas shutoff valves actuate to prevent fires, backup power comes online...Is your building Earthquake Intelligent?

Earthquakes are not rare events. On a yearly basis, 70 to 75 damaging earthquakes occur throughout the world. FEMA estimates that losses from a future earthquake in the United States approach $200 billion. Earthquakes exact a high toll in human injury, interruption of service, and damage to assets.

QuakeGuardTM products and services provide early warning of destructive earthquakes for commercial, manufacturing, industrial, public sector and residential buildings. QuakeGuard is an innovative and essential component of an intelligent building, and delivers:

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Based on patented sensing technology, QuakeGuard detects P-waves (the non-destructive primary earthquake waves) in advance of damaging S and R waves, and provides a warning that the earthquake has begun.

Seismic Warning Systems earthquake intelligence gives you the power to be proactive, not reactive, about earthquakes.

Introducing QuakeGuard

QuakeGuard is an extraordinary technological development—a system that detects and warns of an imminent earthquake. QuakeGuard products and services provide two categories of quake damage mitigation:

Alerts and Alarms

Emergency and disaster relief agencies have continually maintained that even a few seconds of prior warning could greatly reduce injuries, fatalities and property damage resulting from an earthquake, by helping people move away from potentially dangerous objects and areas. Instantaneous alarms include:

QuakeGuard is internet-integrated, so it can also automatically notify appropriate parties that an earthquake has occurred at any location, communicating an alert through:

Automated Controls for Systems

Automated system controls can protect lives, prevent property damage, protect assets, and avoid disruption of mission-critical services in a variety of ways unique to each market segment, with significant ROI. Much earthquake loss is due to preventable collateral damage, such as fires from ruptured gas lines, electrical fires from broken electrical wiring, and inaccessible water reserves. For example, in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated portions of the San Francisco Bay Area, much of the damage was caused by systems failures after the earthquake hit. Examples of pre-emptive actions include:

Seismic Safety Commission
"Every second of advance warning can, with adequate pre-earthquake preparedness training, translate directly into the reduction of lives lost, injuries, and property damage."

Richard McCarthy,
Executive Director
CA Seismic SafetyCommission

QuakeGuard Technology


Shock Waves GraphAll earthquakes produce a series of different types of shock waves, which travel at different speeds and carry different amounts of energy. The fastest shock waves, and the first to arrive, are called P‑waves. These travel about twice as fast as the next fastest shock waves and rarely cause any damage. The next shock waves to arrive are called Shear waves (or S‑waves), followed by Love waves and Rayleigh waves, which cause most of the damage by earthquakes. Since the P‑waves arrive first, they can provide an advance notice of the heavy shaking to follow. The warning time is about 1 second for every 5 miles of distance to the hypocenter of the earthquake, which gives automated systems plenty of time to respond and enough time for people to react. Depending on the geological composition of the terrain and the distance from the hypocenter of the seismic event, a warning of 2 to 40 seconds is possible.

Reliable Controls A QuakeGuard system consists of a seismic monitoring unit which is installed at the customer site. QuakeGuard comprises a main controller, with custom hardware and proprietary software, two or more remote redundant seismic sensors, and local interfaces to alarms and equipment controls. The unit interfaces to the internet for user management, and for remote monitoring, diagnostics and maintenance. QuakeGuard includes an automatic reset function so it can sense damaging aftershocks as well.

QuakeGuard is uniquely reliable, triggering only in the event of a damaging earthquake, typically 5.0 or greater. The cost of a false alarm is prohibitive for most automated response applications, especially in the commercial market. The system employs redundant sensors and patented DSP (digital signal processing) algorithms to accurately detect the vibrations associated with a seismic event. QuakeGuard is not triggered by smaller, non-damaging earthquakes or other sources of vibration such as machinery, vehicles, and construction equipment. In this regard, QuakeGuard has already proven to be 100% reliable.

QuakeGuard performed perfectly during a number of California earthquakes, most recently the 5.1 Anza quake in October 2001, and the 6.5 San Simeon quake in December 2003. QuakeGuard has also reliably filtered smaller quakes with no false positives on location at several installations in California, including a 3.7 quake felt in Temecula in September 2002. No false positives were registered at a Palm Springs installation despite busy airstrips nearby and intense vibrations caused by demolition and new construction at the site.

Market Applications


U.S. Geological Survey

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other scientists conclude that there is a 62% probability of at least one magnitude 6.7 or greater quake, capable of causing widespread damage, striking the San Francisco Bay region before 2032.

The commercial market offers a host of applications for office space, wholesale,  manufacturing and industrial buildings. Benefits:


SmartHome technology can now be expanded to offer earthquake early warning benefits:

contemporary Emergency services value proposition

QuakeGuard protects firefighting personnel, and helps them protect the community:


In private schools, public schools, universities and colleges, we have a fiduciary responsibility to protect our children.

Medical Facilities

For hospitals, clinics, and long term care facilities:

Building Automation Integration

QuakeGuard is an exciting  and important addition to a building automation strategy, and the first in its category in the rapidly growing market of seismic risk mitigation. The goal of SWS is to accelerate the adoption of QuakeGuard in key markets, including commercial, industrial, government and residential by establishing sales channel partnerships. QuakeGuard complements existing portfolios of building intelligence solutions and extends their value.

QuakeGuard’s automated control capabilities, easily customized and packaged for different markets, leverage the core patent-protected technology. The product can interface to any automated control system, such as open standards, BACnet, LON, OBIX, SCADA, MODBUS, CAN and Fieldbus, and is capable of controlling a wide range of devices.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has recognized 39 states as having significant earthquake risk, including Alaska, California, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, South Carolina and Washington.

74% of the annual US earthquake loss is concentrated in California. Due to the lessons learned from the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge earthquakes, California’s businesses, residents and various state agencies are acutely earthquake aware.

Please contact Seismic Warning Systems for more information on how you can incorporate a solution for buildings that are earthquake intelligent!

About the Author 

Holly Stump, V.P. Marketing, Seismic Warning Systems, Inc. 
Holly Stump is a high tech marketing and sales executive with over 20 years of experience in B to B marketing, business development, channel management, and international sales. She is a veteran of 4 successful startups in electronic design automation and internet-based electronics supply chain, as VP of Sales and Marketing; VP Marketing; or VP Business Development. Despite this, she acknowledges that her best ROI has always been in real estate investments! Ms. Stump earned her BSEE at Illinois Institute of Technology (cum laude), and her MS Engineering Management at Stanford University. She can be contacted at


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