The United States may be closer to getting its own earthquake early warning system after a financial boost in research.

A foundation Tuesday awarded a $6 million grant for scientists trying to build a system like the ones they have in Japan and several other earthquake-prone countries. The seed money was given to the University of California, Berkeley, California Institute of Technology and the University of Washington.

Within seconds of a big quake striking, an early warning system could trigger trains to slow down, make elevators automatically stop at their nearest floor and more.

Since 2006, California quake researchers and the U.S. Geological Survey have been testing a prototype in the state that only sends messages to select scientists.

The grant was made by the Palo Alto, Calif.-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Scientists estimate a fully functional West Coast alert system would cost $150 million over five years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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