New MyQuake app educates on earthquakes

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MyQuake, a new free iPhone app released by the Berkeley Seismological Lab, intends to shake up the way people think about earthquakes.

The app, developed by the lab and students Rohan Agarwal and Cora Bernard, aims to teach iPhone users about earthquakes and encourage safety.

Maps show recent earthquakes throughout the world as well as historically destructive earthquakes in California to keep users thinking about earthquakes — even when the effects are not catastrophic.

 “The app is mainly designed for people who do not yet understand earthquakes, which is something that people who do understand earthquakes worry about,” said Peggy Hellweg, the lab’s operations manager, in an email. “(We) try to help people understand about earthquakes, what their effects can be and how people can prepare themselves. This app helps.”

A 2007 study by the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Geological Survey and the Southern California Earthquake Center predicted a 63 percent probability that an earthquake of 6.7 or greater magnitude would strike the Bay Area in the next 30 years.

To prepare for such an occurrence, the app links to Get Quake Ready, an information guide developed by the lab, with tips such as how to create a disaster plan, organize a disaster supply kit and improve the structural integrity of residences.

“One of the best things about MyQuake is that it provides an easy way for people to get involved with earthquakes in their area,” said Jennifer Strauss, external relations officer at the lab. “California is earthquake country — something that residents acknowledge — but because the major earthquakes are spread out, thinking about earthquakes isn’t something that is part of most people in California’s daily lives.”

 The app’s historic feature gives descriptions of the effects of famous past earthquakes, like the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, which led to the deaths of between 700 and 3,000 people and destroyed about 28,000 buildings. The feature shows witness testimonies, old newspaper articles and pictures of the events. It also links to a video that simulates the intensity of the earthquakes.

 “This is not just a factual app,” Strauss said. “People can keep updated on earthquake information in an interactive way without having to read a research paper.”

In the future, MyQuake could also provide life-saving information about earthquakes.

 “The speed of virtual information can now travel at a rate faster than seismic waves can — someone could get an alert about an earthquake before it gets to them,” said Bruce Buffett, chair of the campus department of Earth and planetary science. “Imagine, for instance, a train moving at a high speed receives an alert and is able to slow down considerably. A few moments of advance notice could go a long way.”

Contact Nico Correia at [email protected]

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