LOS ANGELES – Residents of Los Angeles County may have a few seconds to prepare for an earthquake thanks to a new app for Apple and Android smartphones.
ShakeAlertLA will give warnings similar to an Amber Alert when significant shaking starts nearby, ideally allowing users to get to a safe place, according to the app. An earthquake early warning pilot created by the city of Los Angeles in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, the app might not send an alert if users are too close to the epicenter. Others may have up to a minute warning, depending on their location and speed of the warning mechanism.
“All we can hope is that it works,” one user tweeted. “Get the app and hopefully we’ll never find out.”
Users will only receive alerts for earthquake and aftershocks over 5.0 magnitude, which are deemed capable of creating damage and affecting public safety. The message, accompanied by alert sounds, will appear as: “Earthquake! Earthquake! Expect (no, weak, moderate, strong) shaking. Drop, cover, and hold on. Protect yourself now!”
The app warned that it may issue late, false, cancelled or missed alerts.
“I’m disappointed that one of the alerts isn’t ‘It was just a truck,'” one user tweeted. “I just hope I never get an alert.”
While city officials will formally announce the app Thursday, USGS has been developing the alert system for the West Coast since 2006, according to the app. Centers for the real-time system are located in the Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area and the Los Angeles area, but the system does not send public alerts.
Hundreds of seismometers along faults in California, Oregon, and Washington in the system detect shaking, according to the app. The system then estimates an earthquake’s location and magnitude, determining what alerts to send before larger, more damaging shaking.
While some expressed concern about the app’s location tracking, many shared excitement for its release.