A billion-dollar warning system alerted some Japanese residents a few seconds before the 8.9 magnitude quake sent a deadly tsunami washing into the country.
Scientists say a similar system could be installed on the West Coast of the United States, but it would cost about $150 million.
The Seattle Times reports officials will have to decide whether such a system would be worth the cost and how the public would be trained to respond.
The director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington, John Vidale (vih'-DAHL'-eh), says people have to know what to do with the information.
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Southern California Earthquake Center Director Tom Jordan says even 15 or 20 seconds warning would give people time to dive under tables.