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California’s earthquake warning app: How much time would you get to prepare?

by Ace Damon
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In a major breakthrough for seismic safety, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Thursday the launch of a statewide earthquake early warning application.

The MyShake App, built by UC Berkeley, will give all Californians who download it iOS and Android calls the chance to receive early earthquake alerts anywhere in the state. Authorities will also start issuing early earthquake alerts through the Wireless Emergency Alerts system, offering Amber Alert-style text messaging alerts, even to people who have not downloaded the app.

So far only people from the city of Los Angeles & # 39; ShakeAlertLA app and physically present in Los Angeles County could receive the alerts.

How does the system work?

The earthquake early warning system works on a simple principle: an earthquake's tremor travels at the speed of sound through the rock – slower than the speed of today's communication systems. For example, it would take more than a minute for a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that began on the Salton Sea to rock Los Angeles, 160 kilometers away, traveling along the state's longest fault, the San Andreas.

Do other places have warning systems?

From others nations including Japan, Mexico, Taiwan and Turkey, already have operating systems. In Japan, early warnings are part of life – school-age children are trained to give up, cover up and hold on when they hear warnings; TV shows are interrupted by a family carillon and a speaker giving details of the expected tremor; and cell phones automatically send audible alerts.

How much warning would MyShake have provided if an earthquake warning system were available in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake?

Here are some estimates, according to Richard Allen, director of the Berkeley Seismology Laboratory:

  • San Francisco Marina District: 20 seconds
  • Candlestick Point: 15 seconds

People near the epicenter do not receive a warning; The further you are from the epicenter, the more warning time you will likely have. San Francisco is 100 kilometers from the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake that occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

San Francisco suffered considerable damage from the earthquake; in Marina district, vulnerable wooden apartments with fragile first floors collapsed, killing at least three; buildings burst into flames as the gas lines broke; and five people outside a brick office building in the South of Market area were crushed to death when the bricks fell from the top floor.

When did the MyShake alert app start having the ability to send alerts?

Officer changed the alerts on Thursday.

Where do you need to get alerts if you have downloaded the app?

Anywhere in the state of California.

Do you need to download the app on a smartphone to receive the warnings?

This is the best move if you have a smartphone. Recent tests show that people who receive text message warnings in the Amber Alert-style Wireless Emergency Alerts system may receive the warning before the commotion begins, but can also be very slow, delivering the alert after the commencement of the commotion.

Can I have ShakeAlertLA and MyShake on my phone?

Yes. If you are in L.A. County, you may receive two alerts.

Under what circumstances would I get an alert with the MyShake app?

The US Geological Survey has hundreds of California seismic sensors under its ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system, which was built in recent years thanks to considerable support from Congress and elected officials in Sacramento.

When an earthquake of magnitude 4.5 or greater occurs, computers instantly analyze which areas of the state should see a tremor intensity described as “noticeably felt by people indoors, especially on the upper floors of buildings,” causing movement. of lightly stopped cars, with many people thinking that the vibrations are similar to a passing truck.

This is known as intensity level 3 on Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale. If you are in a zone expected to achieve this level of agitation, the system is designed to provide an alert on the MyShake application. (The criteria are the same as ShakeAlertLA's.)

Is this threshold different after many people in Los Angeles County went crazy for not receiving warnings of the Ridgecrest earthquakes in July?

Yes. Experts thought people just wanted to be warned before shaking.

They now recognize that people want warnings when the shaking is frightening even if there is no damage.

Is the warning threshold different for people who don't download the MyShake app?

Yes.

Warnings sent via text message via the Wireless Emergency Alerts system will only be displayed to people in locations where an intensity level of 4 is expected. This is a "light" tremor level where many are aware of the tremor. , the walls make broken sounds and the doors, windows and dishes are disturbed.

How reliable is the MyShake app?

You should expect false alarms and missed alerts. This is part of the deal with earthquake early warning systems when they operate in countries like Japan and Mexico. But the public consensus in other countries is that the system is worth it because of the profound benefit you can get when the warning is correct.

What can you do with a few seconds of warning?

You can release, cover and hold. This will help prevent injury from falling objects and protect the head and other body parts when the tremor is bad. In a serious shaking situation, you may be knocked to the ground, so protecting yourself is the most prudent thing to do; That's why school children in California learn this in elementary school.

"We are taking a big leap forward by focusing attention on prevention," Newsom told reporters in Oakland at a news conference.

I see there is a version of MyShake that has been around since 2016. What is this?

The first version of MyShake was designed in part as a research experiment to allow users to send choppy data from their smartphone's motion sensors to researchers.

How long has earthquake warning been in development in California?

Tom Heaton, professor of engineering seismology at Caltech, is credited with writing the first serious proposal for an early earthquake warning system in the United States while at the USGS.

One of the first practical tests of the concept in California came after the Loma Prieta earthquake, which collapsed a section of the Oakland 880 interstate bus and killed 42 people and injured 108 people.

A system was set up to place sensors near the epicenter of the Santa Cruz Mountains earthquake and to send radio alerts to rescuers working in Oakland on the damaged road 100 kilometers away. The idea was to alert rescuers of a significant aftershock that began in the Santa Cruz Mountains to Oakland before the quake hit. The system worked for six months and sent 12 warnings.

How did a similar earthquake warning system in Tokyo work during the magnitude 9 earthquake in 2011?

During the 2011 magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan, viewers in Tokyo watching an NHK television channel that rang the early warning had more than a minute of early warning before the strongest tremor arrived.

Will the earthquake early warning system be expanded to other West Coast states?

USGS is working on expanding the system to Oregon and Washington. Some Nevada officials have expressed interest in joining the system.

What are some examples of how the system can make a difference?

In the oil and gas industry, a few seconds warning may be enough for teams to manually shut down certain pipelines, pumping high-pressure fuel – or automatically – and therefore avoid uncontrollable geysers of petroleum products that fall from a broken pipe explosive danger.

Hospitals have tested visual notifications that can signal operating room staff that an earthquake is occurring so surgeons can remove their scalpels and turn off electric cauterizers to prevent fires.

Transit agencies can slow down trains to reduce the chance of derailment.

Fire stations can ensure that garage doors are open so that firefighters can quickly reach emergencies.

Elevators can stop at the nearest floor and open to let passengers out.

If a public earthquake warning system were in place during the 2014 Napa magnitude 6 earthquake, San Francisco would have received an 8-second warning before the strongest quake arrived. The system reportedly issued an alert 5 seconds after the earthquake began, and the strongest quake struck the city 13 seconds after the earthquake struck.

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