LOS ANGELES -- LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday ordered creation of a statewide earthquake early warning system that could give millions of Californians a few precious seconds of warning before a powerful temblor strikes.

The bill signed into law Tuesday directs the Office of Emergency Services to develop the system and identify sources of funding for it by January 2016. The system is expected to cost about $80 million to build and run for five years. The money cannot come from state general funds and the law doesn't specifically address alternatives, such as federal money or private sector partnerships.

"We need to develop this system without delay," said a statement from Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, who sponsored Senate Bill 135. "California is going to have an earthquake early warning system, the question is whether we have one before or after the next big quake."

Early warning systems are designed to detect the first, fast-moving shock wave from a large earthquake, calculate the strength and alert people before the slower but damaging waves spread. The U.S. has lagged behind Mexico, Japan and other quake-prone countries in developing a system that can detect a rupturing fault and provide enough time for trains to brake, cars to pull off roads, utilities to shut off gas lines and people to dive under tables and desks.

The system can't predict earthquakes and people at the epicenter won't get any warning, but those farther away could benefit.

During the 2011 earthquake-caused tsunami in Japan, millions of people received five to 40 seconds of warning depending on how far they were from the epicenter. The notices were sent to cellphones and broadcast over airwaves.

For several years, the U.S. Geological Survey has been testing a prototype that fires off messages to about two dozen groups in the state, mostly scientists and first responders. In March, it provided up to 30 seconds of warning of a magnitude-4.7 earthquake in Riverside County.

A full-scale system would mean upgrading current earthquake monitoring stations and adding some 440 additional sensors in vulnerable regions, such as the northern tip of the San Andreas near San Francisco and the San Jacinto Fault in Southern California.

Also on HuffPost:

Captions courtesy AP.
Loading Slideshow...
  • March 2011

    A magnitude 8.9 quake strikes off the northeast coast of Japan, sending a tsunami across the Pacific and killing a still-undetermined number of people.<br> <em>Caption: Vehicles are crushed by a collapsed wall at a carpark in Mito city, in Ibaraki prefecture on March 11, 2011, after a massive earthquake rocked Japan. (JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • October 2011

    A 7.1 magnitud earthquake strikes eastern Turkey near the city of Van. More than 604 people are kiled, more than 4,100 injured. <br> <em>Caption: Turkish rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Van, Turkey, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Bertan Ayduk)</em>

  • October 2010

    A volcanic eruption and a tsunami kill more than 500 people in Indonesia.<br> <em>Caption: Misbah, sits with her two year old daughter Sylvia in her collapsed house at Tumalei village in the Metawai islands, West Sumatra, on October 31, 2010. (BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • February 2010

    A 8.8 magnitude quake shakes Chile, generating a tsunami and killing 524 people.<br> <em>Caption: A man removes earthquake debris from his home near a ship sitting in the middle of the road in Talcahuano, Chile, on Sunday, March 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)</em>

  • September 2009

    A magnitude 8.0 earthquake unleashes tsunamis of up to 40 feet (12 meters) and killing 194 people in the South Pacific, including 34 in American Samoa.<br> <em>Caption: This photo taken on September 29, 2009, after an 8.0-magnitude quake and tsunami struck in the early morning offshore shows a damaged building and truck in Pago Pago, on American Samoa. (JOHN NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • September 2007

    A 7.8 magnitude earthquake rattles Sumatra Island, triggering regional tsunami alerts and damaging scores of buildings.<br> <em>Caption: Vehicles pass a damaged road littered with cracks in Ketahun, on 16 September, 2007, four days after the first massive temblor rocked the region. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • September 2007

    An earthquake measured at a magnitude of 8.4 near Sumatra triggers a wave in the coastal city of Padang. The tremor kills at least 25 people and injures around 50. <br> <em>Caption: A man rides his bicycle past a collapsed house in Lubuk Pinang, Muko Muko, on 16 September, 2007. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • April 2007

    At least 28 people in the Solomon Islands die in a tsunami and earthquake measured at a magnitude of 8.1.<br> <em>Caption: Children walk through their destroyed homes as aid starts arriving in Gizo after it was hit by a tsunami earlier in the week, on 07 April, 2007. (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • July 2006

    A magnitude 6.1 earthquake triggers a tsunami off Java Island's southern coast, killing at least 600 people.<br> <em>Caption: A hotel owner sits next to rubbles in Pangandaran, 19 July, 2006, after a earthquake-triggered tsunami hit south coast of Java island, on 17 July. (BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • March 2005

    A magnitude 8.6 quake in northern Sumatra kills about 1,300 people.<br> <em>Caption: People mourn the loss of members of their family on March 31, 2005, in Gunungsitoli on the Island of Nias, Indonesia, after a massive earthquake struck on March 28. (Ian Waldie/Getty Images)</em>

  • December 2004

    An Indian Ocean tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, kills 230,000 in a dozen countries.<br> <em>Caption: Hands stretch out for bags food as it is given out at a refugee camp for people who have become homeless after a massive tsunami wave swept across coastal Sri Lanka on December 31, 2004, in Tangalle, Sri Lanka. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)</em>

  • December 2003

    A 6.6 magnitude earthquake strikes the Iranian city of Ban in the southeastern Kerman province, killing more than 26,271 people and injuring 30,000. <br> <em><br>An elderly Iranian woman gestures in front of the ruins of the quake-devastated Iranian city of Bam. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)</em>

  • August 1976

    A magnitude 8.0 earthquake hits near the islands of Mindanao and Sulu in the Philippines, generating a tsunami and leaving at least 5,000 dead.<br> <em>Caption: Aerial views of damaged buildings in Cotobato City, Philippines, in August 1976. (AP Photo)</em>

  • May 1960

    A magnitude 9.5 earthquake in southern Chile and ensuing tsunami kill at least 1,716 people.<br> <em>Caption: A soldier stands guard nearrubble strewn around an electrical shop which was shattered by an earthquake in Concepcion, Chile, on May 24, 1960. (AP Photo)</em>

  • March 1964

    A 9.2 magnitude earthquake in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and the resulting tsunami kill 131 people. <br> <em>Caption: A photographer looks over wreckage as smoke rises in the background from burning oil storage tanks at Valdez, Alaska, on March 29, 1964. (AP Photo)</em>