California gets its first real alert through Earthquake Early Warning system

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A select number of California residents have received the first-ever public alert through the app MyShake, a statewide Earthquake Early Warning System.

As reported by LA Times, the alert was sent out early morning on December 17. It was in response to an M4.4 earthquake in Parkfield, CA.

The quake was not strong enough to cause any damage because of its low magnitude. The system is designed to alert residents to quakes of M4.5 or higher, Tuesday’s tremor was predicted to be a 4.8, hence the alert.

According to the report, the shaking was felt mostly in and around the Cholame Valley area, the closest nearby city to which is Paso Robles. Project manager for the MyShake app Jennifer Strauss said that more than 40 people received the alert about 1 second before the earthquake struck.

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Whilst that might not seem like much time, the report notes that just a few seconds of warning can make all the difference, such as allowing dentists to take a drill out of a patient’s mouth, elevators to let passengers off and giving people time to take cover. The system reportedly took 8.7 seconds to issue the alert. The system does not tend to alert those very close to the epicenter, as there is usually not enough time to warn people.

As Engadget notes, if you’re in the vicinity of a powerful enough quake, warnings can be received via the Wireless Emergency Alert system, as well as through MyShake, available for iOS and Android.

The MyShake app was created by UC Berkely, and it uses data from the U.S Geological Survey’s ShakeAlert System. Whilst the system is really still in the infancy of its lifespan, it’s a cool example of how technology and app development can be used to keep us all safer.

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