Cell Phones Alert Users To Earthquakes

October 04, 2019

Government officials are finding better ways to keep the public safe using their smartphones. As of mid-October, California has implemented a new program that sends early warnings about earthquakes to state residents in the area predicted to be affected. Similar to an amber alert, the warnings may only be about 20 seconds before the quake hits. As short as 20 seconds may sound, it can be a valuable amount of time for people to get to a safer location or to stop what they’re doing.

In addition to the Wireless Emergency Alerts, which will go out to phone users within a certain geographical area, the partnership is also launching a new app called MyShake that sends out an alert with more detailed information. MyShake is free and downloadable for use within California. Both the app and the new emergency alerts are the result of years of research and development by a partnership comprised of the State of California, UC Berkley, The California Institute of Technology and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Users will get a notification if they live in an area that will be affected by an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater: basically, a quake that could produce significant damage. The closer the user is to the predicted epicenter, the more notice they’ll get, even if it’s just a couple seconds.

The new program is the first of its kind in the nation. It’s meant to help give a much-needed warning that will circumvent major catastrophes, such as allowing fire stations to open their bay doors before they get stuck; allowing surgeons to put down their instruments before the room starts to shake; and for children in schools to get under desks before danger arrives.

The new warning system is likely to improve on weather and other emergency alert systems that already exist throughout the country.