Here's your daily reminder: We're all going to die, and it could be because the Big One strikes Portland as you're sitting at your desk at the job you hate next to the book shelf that will crush you.

Now for the good news.

The feds just awarded $3.7 million to six universities, including the University of Oregon, to help improve a West Coast early detection system that could give Portland as much as three minutes of warning when a powerful earthquake strikes the southern Cascadia subduction zone.

The West Coast already has ground monitors that help scientists detect shakes, but geologists want to have more sensors, creating a denser network that will provide better coverage.

The sensors work by identifying seismic waves called P-waves that travel quickly. P-waves come before slower, more damaging S-waves, and scientists can use the arrival of P-waves to warn people of the violent shaking that comes with S-waves.

In some cases that warning could be several minutes, enough time to alert people to take cover, says Doug Toomey, a geoscientist at the University of Oregon.

The $3.7 million doesn't get scientists all the way to their goal of $16 million. They still need about $8 million. U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden (both D-Ore.) announced the grant Tuesday.

Unfortunately, says Toomey, it's easier to get funding for an early warning system after an earthquake has already struck.

Mexico and Japan already deploy systems like the one scientists want on the West Coast. "The technology," says Toomey, "has proven to work."