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Entire West Coast now has access to earthquake early warning system

Earthquake Early Warning System
Posted at 5:00 PM, May 05, 2021

SEATTLE, Wash. — The entire West Coast now has access to ShakeAlert, an earthquake early warning system that allows messages to be sent to mobile phones once there’s a tremor.

The system debuted in Washington state Tuesday after it was introduced in Oregon in March and made available in California in 2019. The three states represent the most earthquake-prone region in the continental U.S.

The more than 50 million people in those states can now receive alerts from FEMA’s wireless emergency alert system, third-party phone apps and other technologies.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) says the ShakeAlert system relies on sensor data from its Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS), which is a collection of regional earthquake monitoring networks operated by universities and state geological surveys throughout the U.S.

ShakeAlert explainer graphic

USGS says the ShakeAlert system can save lives and reduce injuries by giving people time to take protective actions like drop, cover and hold on before potentially dangerous earthquake shaking arrives at their location.

In addition to supporting public alerts to mobile phones, ShakeAlert system data has been used to develop applications that trigger automated actions. Those automatic actions can be used to slow down trains to prevent derailments, open firehouse doors so they don’t jam shut and close valves to protect water and gas systems.

“Systems powered by ShakeAlert can turn mere seconds into opportunities for people to take life-saving protective actions or for applications to trigger automated actions that protect critical infrastructure. An effort like this takes the dedication, ingenuity and hard work of dozens of partners with the same vision, and the USGS is proud to have been part of a collaborative team that made this robust public safety system available for millions of citizens on the West Coast," said David Applegate, Associate Director for Natural Hazards Exercising the Delegated Authority of the USGS Director.