SAN FRANCISCO - An earthquake early warning system was first suggested more than a century ago, just after the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Today, it can be in the palm of your hand.
If an Earthquake Warning System existed 30 years ago for Loma Prieta, East Bay agencies would have gotten 20 seconds advance notice over mobile devices that were not in existence then.
Like the first iPhone, My Shake is a first version of what will be an ever improving earthquake alert system. This is not a perfect system. Today, we are making a big leap forward in terms of focusing attention on prevention
The MyShake app is not a high tech crystal ball that will predict an earthquake, but more akin to screeching brakes, an alert that that something, already in progress, is about to happen. "We have been building the system over the last few years but we feel it's at a point where we can really make a difference. We can reduce the number of injuries. We can reduce the number of fatalities in future earthquakes," said Richard Allen Director of UC Berkeley's Seismic Lab, where MyShake was created.
The app, MyShake, is free and available right now. "Download the app 'MyShake,'" said the Governor. "The further away you are from the epicenter, the more warning time you can receive," said California Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci. "That means that you may have a few seconds, perhaps ten, 20 seconds worth of warning time," said Allen.
But, you'll only get an alert if two things happen. First, the earthquake must be magnitude 4.5 or greater. Second, you must be close enough for feel meaningful shaking by the time it gets to your location. "So, if we don't anticipate that you're gonna feel shaking intensity of at least level three, which is kinds of a mild shaking, then we will not send you the alert," said Dr. Angela Chung, UC Early Warning Scientist.
My Shake gets its information from the Federal Earthquake Warning System that's tied to a thousand sophisticated seismic sensors in a thousand west coast locations with more sensors coming. "They detect the earthquakes and send the information that there's this earthquake that's happening. The system then can sent the alerts to apps," said Dr. Chung.