Shake and Bake: Early Warning Labs’ CEO Josh Bashioum with QuakeAlert system.

Shake and Bake: Early Warning Labs’ CEO Josh Bashioum with QuakeAlert system. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

The Los Angeles region is an earthquake hot spot, so it’s little surprise a company focused on detecting seismic activity and warning its customers of an impending temblor would make its home here – or that its first customers are major local institutions.

Santa Monica-based Early Warning Labs, founded in 2013 by Chief Executive Josh Bashioum, has already signed up commercial clients such as NBCUniversal Media, as well as public entities like the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Early Warning Labs’ QuakeAlert system – which costs between $400 and $750 per device – is already in three LAUSD schools, and Bashioum said the district is looking to distribute the system to 40 more locations through a grant from the California Office of Emergency Services. There are tentative plans to install the warning devices in all 1,200 schools operated by the district, contingent on additional funding. The contract, if fully realized, could net Early Warning Labs up to $900,000 and is only one of several revenue streams available to the company.

“The business potential is sizable, not a national market yet, but more than 50 percent of people in the country live in a seismically at-risk area, condensed mainly on the coast, so we have a very, very large market,” Bashioum said.

“The platform we built is relevant in other emergency communications that need instantaneous communication,” including active-shooter scenarios, Bashioum added.

Jill Barnes, executive emergency strategist for the LAUSD’s Office of Emergency Services, said the alert system would hopefully allow more time for students to get to safety.

“The reason we want to be involved with Early Warning is it gives us a chance to take that protective action before we can feel the shaking,” she said. “Some kids need a bit longer … time to react.”

Bashioum said Early Warning Labs is also actively licensing its technology to building automation and mass communication professionals, providing another revenue stream.

Early Warning Labs’ QuakeAlert system can be accessed via an app, and its software can also be adapted to broadcast warnings over public address systems and open doors or shut down critical systems that could be damaged in an earthquake.

The data underpinning Early Warning Labs’ system is publicly available seismic data gathered by the U.S. Geological Survey’s ShakeAlert project, which is currently rolling out a network of 1,675 earthquake detection sites across the nation.

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