Whenever the earth moves anywhere in the world, the possibility of an earthquake in Switzerland hits the headlines too. And the headlines are accompanied by a comment from the Swiss Seismological Service (SED) at the ETH Zurich. The SED monitors seismic activity throughout the country and formulates preventive measures.

The SED is the federal agency specialising in earthquakes. It monitors seismic activity throughout Switzerland and carries out studies of the country’s earthquake risk. SED’s activities are integrated into the federal package of measures designed to reduce potential damage associated with an earthquake in Switzerland.

 

Highly sensitive measuring network

The SED monitors seismic activity in Switzerland and neighbouring areas using a digital high-sensitivity system (SDSNet). The seismometers are extremely sensitive and are thus positioned in remote areas on solid rock. All seismic signals are transmitted continuously to the SED data centre in Zurich, where the data is evaluated automatically, and manually if needed, and is then archived. Some 700 gigabytes of data are stored every year.

In addition to the high-sensitivity SDSNet, the Seismological Service also uses a national network of instruments that monitor strong motion. This equipment is capable of recording undistorted signals even during very powerful quakes. The instruments are distributed in Switzerland's seismically active regions, with special emphasis on high-risk areas such as Valais, Basel and the larger agglomerations. Strong-motion measuring stations have also been installed in the dams of some of Switzerland’s larger reservoirs in collaboration with the Federal Office of Energy and the operators of large hydroelectric power stations.

Services for industry and the public

The SED provides a number of further services for industry and public institutions in relation, for example, to geothermal energy projects and the assessment of seismic risk for the cantonal and communal structure plans. The specialists at The SED are always pleased to answer questions from the public and the media. The SED also pursues its own activities designed to increase awareness of the risk of earthquakes in Switzerland and of the need for preparedness.