Earthquake alert system to be tested in Oakland on Wednesday

A test for sending out earthquake alerts to cell phones in and around downtown Oakland will be conducted at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

This test of the Wireless Emergency Alert system is being coordinated by the state Office of Emergency Services and the United States Geological Survey, in partnership with the City of Oakland and Alameda County.

"The Wireless Emergency Alert, presents the most public type of alerting that one would get on a device, so it's for everyone," said Robert de Groot, USGS ShakeAlert Communications Coordinator. "Basically it goes out  to every enabled device in that area so one of the things we really want to do is try to get these ShakeAlerts out to as many people as possible by as many pathways as possible "

Using current geofencing technology, this test will target cell phones within area of approximately 60 square blocks east of Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland. 

However, because of limitations with the technology, some people outside the target area may receive the alert, too.

"The USGS is responsible for detecting the earthquake and characterizing that earthquake and making a decision weather or not to issue a ShakeAlert. That process can take about five or so seconds. Then we had it off to our partners to actually deliver those ShakeAlerts. We have a pretty good sense of how long it takes for us to actually publish the alerts, but we really want to test the other end... the delivery side. That's where a lot of the work still needs to be done." de Groot said.

CalOES is asking that anything in the test area do the following before, during and after the test to ensure accuracy:

1) Before the test starts, using either your cell phone or your  desktop computer, go to the official web site and make sure the correct time zone (Pacific) is being reflected in the readout;

2) Starting a few minutes before 11 a.m. Wednesday, the scheduled alert time, keep a close watch on your cell phone and the official time and note the exact time -- to the nearest second, if possible -- at which the alert first arrives on your phone. This alert will have the heading "Emergency Alert," and this message: "TEST of the CA Earthquake Warning System. No action required. THIS IS A TEST";

3) Complete a 13-question survey, noting the time (to the second) an alert is received. The survey link is