SAN JOSE (KPIX) — High-definition surveillance cameras now routinely record the terrifying moments when an earthquake strikes. But what if a technology that’s already in your hands could be used to warn you that a quake is about to happen?

Seismologists at UC Berkeley say such a capability is already here and available in the form of a new app for Android phones called MyShake.

“We want to use the sensors on your phone to record the impacts of an earthquake so we can understand them,” Richard Allen, with the university’s seismology lab, said.

The app uses a mobile phone’s motion sensors — called accelerometers — to detect and record the temblor’s intensity. MyShake then sends that information the seismology lab.

Researchers hope that, when enough phones are networkded into the system, MyShake will be able to alert other app users in distant areas, giving them a few precious seconds to duck and cover before the shaking starts.

“If there’s a chance that (MyShake) can predict when an earthquake happens, I think that’s worthwhile,” college student Thach Ngo told KPIX.

Students at San Jose State University were a bit concerned about privacy issues, since using the app would allow the location of their phones to be constantly tracked. But they said they would probably still use the app.

“If you can know, say, three seconds before (a quake) happens, you can probably get under a table or something and save your life,” SJSU student Jose Ochoa said.

Researchers believe the app may have its greatest impact on users in developing countries where there are no seismic early-warning systems but there are millions of smartphones.

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