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ACEC OR Honor Award For Engineering Excellence | 2019
ShakeAlert Pilot Program Implementation, City of Grants Pass

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” the next major earthquake occurs. In an effort to equip utilities across the region with a way to plan for and protect against a major Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, and protect vital water infrastructure from catastrophic failure, RH2 Engineering teamed with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) to develop a robust Advanced Seismic Controller (ASC) device that allows approved utilities to receive the ShakeAlert signal.

This signal, which is processed and distributed by hundreds of sensors across the West Coast to the other data centers and approved end users, provides users with real-time data about the time to shaking, earthquake intensity, depth, and other relevant information. RH2 is one of the few engineering consultants approved by USGS to provide technical assistance to help water, wastewater, and transportation agencies obtain and use the ShakeAlert system and signals. The signals alert operations staff, and RH2 works with each utility to determine specific automatic actions, such as throttling valves, turning off pumps and other expensive mechanical equipment, and de-energizing electrical control panels. RH2 also assists in setting individualized ShakeAlert signal parameters (i.e., earthquake strength, time to shaking at your location, and the calculated reliability of the warning) for these actions to occur.

After the City of Grants Pass expressed interest in applying for the ShakeAlert Pilot Program, RH2 assisted their staff with the application, which was approved earlier in 2018. Our team assisted the City with developing a plan to install the RH2-designed ShakeAlert device at a critical water storage tank (Reservoir No. 3) and creating a phased plan to eventually connect all major facilities to the signal. Implementation of the ASC device at Reservoir No. 3 was successful, and RH2 is now assisting the City with determining what automatic actions to take once the ShakeAlert signal is received, which will protect important pumps, treatment processes, and tanks during a major seismic event.

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