People across California can receive natural disaster warnings seconds before they feel shaking through a new cell phone alert system starting Thursday, the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta quake.
The California Earthquake Early Warning System is a joint project of the Office of Emergency Service, the U.S. Geological Service, UC Berkeley, CalTech, and others. It works like this: In the moments before an earthquake's weaker initial waves ripple out from its epicenter, sensors throughout the region will detect those waves and send alerts out to cellphones, Amber Alert-style, giving people a few seconds of warning to take cover before the stronger S- or surface waves hit.
Until today, as the LA Times explains, only people with the city of Los Angeles' ShakeAlertLA app had access to such an early-warning system - though that system failed to send any alerts about the 6.4M quake that struck in east of LA County on July 4 or the subsequent 7.1M quake, because it was only created to warning of severe shaking within LA County. Eventually, the USGS wants to install more sensors in remote and rural areas of the state, as well as expanding the system to OR and Washington. It will send alerts for earthquakes over magnitude 4.5, according to the state's Office of Emergency Services. Los Angeles residents were already able to get alerts through a different app, ShakeAlertLA.
The system was tested this week when residents of the San Francisco Bay Area and Central California were jolted by a magnitude 4.5 quake and a 4.7 quake respectively.
California will launch the nation's first statewide natural disaster early warning system Thursday morning, according to a news release from the governor's office.
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The app, called MyShake, can provide seconds of warning before the ground starts to shake from a nearby quake - enough time to drop, cover and hold on to prevent injury. It allows people to report about their experience during an natural disaster, including how much shaking they felt and how much damage they observe.
"The price of admission to live here is preparation", the governor told a news conference in Oakland, overlooking a freeway bridge built to replace one that collapsed during the Loma Prieta quake, which killed more than 60 people in the San Francisco Bay Area.
MyShake, which has been funded since June by $1.5 million over two years from CalOES after five years of start-up funding from the Moore Foundation.
Governor Gavin Newsom, who urged Californians to download the MyShake app on the anniversary of the devastating Loma Prieta quake on October 17, 1989, boasted the program was more sophisticated than early warning systems already used in Mexico and Japan. Newsom and the Legislature included $7.6 million in the budget for a public information campaign that will encourage Californians to sign up for the app and learn more about earthquake safety at earthquake.ca.gov. "And we know the Big One might be around the corner".