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Earthquakes can neither be predicted nor prevented. However, the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) monitors ground shaking around the clock. Within approximately 90 seconds of an earthquake, details about the time, location, magnitude, and possible effects appear on the SED website.

The SED automatically reports any noticeable earthquakes to the authorities and the media. At the same time, this information is transmitted to the SED’s 24-hour on-call service by pager, e-mail, and SMS. This service is also available to the authorities and the media for further information about current earthquakes, and writes background information that is published on the SED website.

As part of the Swiss Rescue Chain, the SED also informs the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) about any earthquakes that cause major damage worldwide. The SHA then conducts further investigations and the decides whether or not to dispatch a rescue team with search dogs to the disaster area.

The SED is currently testing an earthquake early warning system. Monitoring stations close to an earthquake immediately register the seismic waves it generates and trigger a warning for areas further away. Such warnings can be issued because the measurements are transmitted at the speed of light, i.e. faster than the speed at which seismic waves are propagated (around 3.5 km per second). However, since earthquake early warnings can only be given at a certain distance from the epicentre and are only useful for more powerful earthquakes, their practical use for Switzerland remains to be determined. Click here for more information about research into earthquake early warnings (EEWs).