Mar 15, 2024

Colwood Fire Hall is the site of one of Natural Resources Canada's Earthquake Early Warning sensors.

Earthquake Early Warning is the rapid detection of earthquakes, real-time estimation of the shaking hazard, and notification of expected shaking. The national Earthquake Early Warning system provides seconds to tens-of-seconds of notice before strong shaking starts, which can help reduce injuries, deaths, and property losses.

How the Earthquake Early Warning system works

Earthquakes release energy that travels through the Earth as seismic waves. Seismic sensors detect the first energy to radiate from an earthquake, the P-wave, which rarely causes damage. The sensors transmit this information to data centres where a computer calculates the earthquake's location and magnitude, and the expected ground shaking across the region. This method can provide warning before the arrival of secondary S-waves, which bring the strong shaking that can cause most of the damage.

How the Earthquake Early Warning system can help

Earthquake Early Warning systems cannot predict earthquakes, but they can provide up to tens of seconds of warning by detecting an earthquake immediately after it occurs and sending out alerts.

While a few seconds of notice may not sound like a lot, imagine the critical actions that can be taken, some of them automated as soon as alert is received. 

  • Stop traffic onto bridges and into tunnels
  • Halt surgery
  • Divert planes from landing and stop trains
  • Automatically open fire hall and ambulance bay doors
  • Close valves
  • Move elevators to the nearest floor and open doors
  • People can drop, cover, and hold on until the shaking stops

Learn more

Read all the details on the Natural Resources Canada Earthquake Early Warning web page (

  • For general information, contact the Earthquake Early Warning Program at 613-995-1006.
  • For media inquiries, contact NRCan Media Relations or the Earthquake Early Warning Program at 613-995-1006.
  • For more information on earthquakes in Canada, please visit Earthquakes Canada.

To learn more about Colwood's Emergency Preparedness efforts and steps you can take, see