BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — After earthquakes rocked the Bay Area this week, a new app offering early warning is arriving right on time.
The ShakeAlert system is coming to phones across the state on Thursday through the MyShake app, in line with the 30th anniversary of the devastating Loma Prieta earthquake. Alerts for earthquakes like the 4.5 magnitude tremor in Pleasant Hill on Monday will be at users’ fingertips no matter where they are.
Cal OES is launching the California Earthquake Early Warning System, which pairs UC Berkeley’s earthquake app with an emergency alert system that will go right to your cell phone. The app can be found on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store under the name “MyShake-UC Berkeley Seismology.”
“There are two pieces to it. One, of course, is the app itself that receives the information about earthquakes. The other is our network of seismology stations that detect earthquakes quickly,” said Dr. Peggy Hellweg of UC Berkeley.
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The MyShake alert app has been in beta testing for more than a year it will go live along with a wireless emergency alert system that will work the same way as Amber or flood alerts.
Earthquake early warning systems are listening for the very first signs of an quake that come in what’s called the “P-wave,” which is the initial wave of a quake that travels faster through the ground than the more damaging “S-waves.”
Brad Aagaard of USGS said they have sensors spread throughout all of California, particularly in the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area.
As of Wednesday evening, the MyShake app has over 333,000 registered phones. There are nearly 1,000 earthquakes recorded by the network and users submitted over 2,100 reports of earthquakes.
“If you know that something big is coming, then it’s easier to protect yourself than if you’re caught unawares,” said Denise Schiller of Berkeley.
And that personal safety element is the reason behind the alert system. If you are prepared and notified, even a few seconds matter.
“It can mean a lot, you know. If you can just get yourself into a doorway or something so that if stuff starts shaking you have a jam around you or under a table,” said Steve Goodheart of Berkeley.
The amount of advanced warning you get depends on how close you are to the epicenter and the geology of the area–sometimes it won’t be much or any at all, but it could be up to a minute and a half. Users must enable their phone’s location services so the app knows if they’re in the affected area.
How To Use
First, make sure to turn on location services in your phone’s settings so the app can know if you are in an affected area. The app only records your experience as data if you are in the affected area.
This interactive map shows the most recent quakes in any affected area you type into the search bar. For example, if you type in “Pleasant Hill” this week, the map will zoom into the area and it’ll
show the magnitude of the most recent quake where it happened.
You can filter the results by time of the quake and the minimum magnitude range. The furthest back you can go is 14 days; quakes have to be at least a 3.5 magnitude to register on the map.
If you click the “I felt shaking” button, the map will show the most recent quakes in your area.
MyShake Data Tab
This tab has information about the number of total registered users on the ShakeAlert system. It also shows the current tally of earthquakes recorded by both users and by the network. The tab
shows your contributions to the system, too.
My Log Tab
This tab shows your recent earthquake reports as well as an archive of all earthquakes you’ve reported on the app.
Here, you can set the magnitude of earthquakes you’ll be able to get notified about–for example, if a 4.0 tremor isn’t shaky enough for you, you can set it higher.
There are some cool features in this tab, including a Safety guide with visualizations of what to do in the event of an emergency. The tab also houses the app’s Sensor, which uses your phone’s technology to record the acceleration and G forces felt during a quake in a graph.
For more info on everything earthquake, visit here: Earthquakes | CBS SF
KPIX 5’s Emily Turner and Mark Sayre contributed to this report.