A notice to the general public ahead of time that an earthquake would strike seemed far-fetched decades ago. Thanks to a new app, residents of the Los Angeles County could now get seconds of warning when the big one comes.
On Thursday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the launch of ShakeAlertLA, the first earthquake early warning app released by a city in the nation. Those who download the app would receive a push alert seconds before a tremblor of 5.0 magnitude or greater happens anywhere in L.A. County.
In the case of a disaster, the notice would read, “Earthquake! Earthquake! Expect strong shaking. Drop, cover and hold on. Protect yourself now!”
“We created the ShakeAlertLA app because getting a few seconds heads-up can make a big difference if you need to pull to the side of the road, get out of an elevator, or drop, cover and hold on,” Garcetti said in a statement.
The app, a collaborative effort among the city of L.A., the U.S. Geological Survey, AT&T and The Annenberg Foundation, merges the USGS’s ShakeAlert early warning sensors in Southern California, Oregon and Washington with mobile app technology.
In addition to the warning, the app also offers tips on how to prepare for and recover from seismic activity, as well as maps of recent incidents.
Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean said Thursday that, thanks to the new app, “People will have a few seconds of warning to get away from objects that could fall on them. Our city has been hit by major earthquakes in the past and chances are we will be again. Anything that can help reduce injuries and loss of life is a benefit to our community.”
The last major temblor to hit the Santa Clarita Valley and other areas of Southern California occurred on Jan. 17, 1994 when a 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck, claiming the lives of more than 50 people.
That powerful incident, as well as others, pushed seismologists like Tom Heaton, a professor of engineering and seismology at CalTech, to work toward producing an earthquake early warning system.
“We’ve been working on developing this for decades,” said Heaton. “Even though we knew how to build it we didn’t have the resources or technology to put a system in place. We now have something for the general public and next time there’s an earthquake we will have a heads up.”
The city approved a $300,000 contract with AT&T and the GRYD Foundation for the creation and deployment of the mobile app, which also received a $260,000 grant from The Annenberg Foundation, according to L.A. officials.
To learn more about the app, visit shakealert.org.