New earthquake system in Menlo Park a first in NorCal

MENLO PARK, Calif. (KGO) -- Underground, there is a sophisticated network of sensors that monitor earthquake activity around the globe. Menlo Park Fire Department is the first public agency in Northern California to take advantage of that system through the Mexico-based SkyAlert software technology.

SkyAlert uses USGS sensor data and connects it to the Menlo Fire Department's smart home system. When an earthquake is recorded in the area, an automated system will leap into action at the station -- shutting off the gas, turning on lights, activating the speakers.

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"I feel like our company is doing more than just sending out a warning, it can take an action. It's one of the most exciting projects I've ever worked on," said Alejandro Cantu, CEO of SkyAlert, whose clients are mostly private companies.

Cantu says his mission is to change the culture around earthquake preparedness and to activate people as soon as possible, saving lives in the process.

Other gadgets previewed by Menlo Park FD include an updated drone program. Every fire station will get a "go bag" full of drone equipment, including devices that can fly with no restrictions and equipped with spotlights and speakers.

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"Using drones for rapid aerial situational awareness is a game changer for first responders and something we are counting on during a major disaster," Harold Schapelhouman, Fire Chief for the Menlo Park Fire District.

Menlo Park FD is also asking the State to become the first public agency to combine the Shake Alert system with an area wide, audible, community notification system. A portable speaker system will act as a pilot program.

A new Heavy Rescue will go into service in August, this million-dollar-plus investment in technical search equipment was years in the making.

"All those pieces of equipment will be crucial. It didn't just happen that we got all these resources," said Schapelhouman.

Schapelhouman said he's been pushing for years to go state-of-the-art, running into issues of budgeting and lack of access to the right technology. He believes that his crews are more prepared than they have ever been with the new equipment, many of which were developed with the lessons they've learned over the years, in mind. At the top of that list, the ability to communicate quickly and clearly with the community.
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