California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday the debut of MyShake, a smartphone application developed at UC Berkeley that will deliver United States Geological Survey, or USGS, ShakeAlerts to warn users seconds before they feel an earthquake.
The new California Earthquake Early Warning System will “marry” traditional emergency alerts with the accessibility of a smartphone application, according to a press release from Newsom’s office.
“Nothing can replace families having a plan for earthquakes and other emergencies,” Newsom said in the press release. “And we know the Big One might be around the corner. I encourage every Californian to download this app and ensure your family is earthquake ready.”
The nation’s first statewide public Earthquake Early Warning System uses ground motion sensors to detect earthquakes before they are felt by humans, according to Newsom’s press release. The app then sends users, who may feel shaking due to magnitude 4.5 or greater earthquakes, an automated alert to “Drop, cover and hold on.”
Depending on the user’s location, the MyShake app may provide seconds of warning before shaking is felt, according to a USGS press release. However, a person near the epicenter may not receive the alert before they feel the earthquake.
Since 2012, BART has partnered with the UC Berkeley Seismology Lab and adopted ShakeAlert technology. Last year, BART upgraded to the ShakeAlert 2.0 system, according to BART spokesperson James Allison.
BART safety measures worked as designed on Oct. 14 when a 4.5 earthquake with an epicenter in Pleasant Hill shook the Bay Area, according to Allison. BART stopped operations and delayed trains for 10 to 15 minutes to inspect the tracks.
“The system is designed to stop or slow trains automatically when ShakeAlert sensors detect seismic activity above a certain threshold,” Allison said in an email. “Even a few seconds warning in a major earthquake could save lives.”
USGS advises users to take protective measures when they receive earthquake alerts and not wait to feel the shaking. The MyShake app is available for download on iPhone and Android devices.