As expected, today California governor Gavin Newsom announced the launch of a statewide Earthquake Early Warning System. Based on reports from sensors embedded in the ground across the state, it can detect tremors and deliver warnings to mobile phones using the Wireless Emergency Alert system or the MyShake app (Android, iOS).
This system doesn’t predict earthquakes, which is sad that has to be said. After quake’s early this year failed to produce a notification on phones in Los Angeles, via the Shake Alert LA app, the threshold for a warning has been lowered to at least a magnitude 4.5 and Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) of 3.
What does any of that mean? It means that it will alert you to something similar to a truck driving by outside your house. According to UC Berkeley, tests have shown alerts can reach users of the MyShake app in about 3.7 seconds, while the WEA (like severe weather notifications and Amber Alerts) had an average delivery time of 13 seconds — so probably go ahead and install that app.
This system is launching on the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta quake in 1989, and if this system had existed then, people attending the World Series game at Candlestick could’ve been notified up to 15 seconds before the quake’s tremors actually reached them. Not that it would’ve given anyone time to get out of the park or off the Nimitz freeway, but it could’ve prepared more people.
The MyShake app seems to be a better fit than the ShakeAlertLA app, which fails to warn people of earthquakes happening outside the Los Angeles area. As the large Ridgecrest quake happened outside of LA County but shakes a good area of LA proper and the nearby San Fernando Valley. With the recent increased activity of earthquakes in the Bay Area, it would probably be a good thing to have on your device.