Published: Sat, October 19, 2019
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

Early Warning Earthquake App Can Save California from Another Disaster

Early Warning Earthquake App Can Save California from Another Disaster

The announcement was made on the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta natural disaster, a magnitude 6.9 quake that damaged or collapsed buildings, overpasses and bridges from Santa Cruz to the Bay Area and led to 63 deaths and 3,757 injuries.

In general, communities farthest away from the epicenter of a quake would receive the most advance warning.

"The alerts will only go to people that are going to feel shaking", Richard Allen, director of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, told the Gate before explaining the different levels of shaking intensity.

California's Office of Emergency Services claimed that ground motion sensors were scattered all over the state and could detect ground movement before people could.

Arba said none of the alerting systems are flawless, and it may also be possible that people feel quakes without receiving alerts.

The 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta quake struck during a national broadcast of the 1989 World Series and experts have said the lighter-than-normal traffic because of the baseball game may have prevented a greater loss of life.

Residents who had the app were alerted within an average of 2.1 seconds in the first case and 1.6 seconds in the latter. It comes several months after two big earthquakes originated in Ridgecrest, prompting Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency, and just days after a series of smaller earthquakes shook the Bay Area.

MyShake was originally created to crowdsource shaking data from cellphone sensors, according to Richard Allen, director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.

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Japan developed the world's most advanced natural disaster early warning system after the 1995 Kobe quake, based on the same principles of physics as California's. Those countries are located near subduction zones under the ocean, where one of the earth's tectonic plates is sliding below another, meaning most of those countries' earthquakes originate offshore. "In rare circumstances, you may receive a ShakeAlert when there was no quake", the announcement of the system said. "But this is encouraging", Allen said.

About 25,000 people have already downloaded the application, but the state's Office of Emergency Services aims to raise that number to 4 million over the next year.

Natural disaster early warning alerts will become publicly available throughout California for the first time this week, potentially giving people time to protect themselves from harm, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services said Wednesday.

Gov. Newsom encouraged everyone to download the app to ensure the safety of everyone and their family for the looming natural disaster dubbed as "The Big One".

"An important caveat here is this is measuring delivery of alerts to a relatively small number of phones, not to the millions of phones that we will want to do in a big quake with many more people having the app".

Zachary Ross, assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech and lead author of the paper, said in a statement that it was one of the most well-documented natural disaster sequences in history.

Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.

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