Over 143 million Americans in 39 states live in areas with significant seismic risk. The danger is particularly high in California and other West Coast states. Each year, earthquakes cause billions of dollars in damage. Earthquakes can strike seemingly without warning, but technology has been developed that can detect the first sign of an earthquake and send alerts to give people and businesses a small amount of time to prepare.

How Does It Work?

ShakeAlert can detect the Primary (P) wave, the first energy that radiates from an earthquake and that usually doesn’t cause damage. It uses that data to estimate the earthquake’s location and magnitude and makes an alert available that can be delivered to devices to initiate automated actions and to tell people to take cover.

Warnings can be sent out before the arrival of the Secondary (S) wave, which causes the strong shaking that produces the majority of the damage. ShakeAlert doesn’t predict earthquakes but rather notifies people once an earthquake has begun. A region near the epicenter won’t be able to receive alerts before shaking starts.

The technology has been tested in California, Oregon, and Washington. Alerts were sent out a few seconds to tens of seconds before shaking began. That was enough time for public transportation to slow and for drivers to avoid tunnels or bridges. People who were working could move away from dangerous machines or hazardous substances and take cover. Industrial systems could be shut down before they got damaged. This advance warning can reduce damage and casualties and prevent cascading failures.

ShakeAlert works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, cellular carriers, and mass notification companies to send alerts and educate the public on how to respond. The U.S. Geological Survey and state and university partners worked together to implement the early phases of the system.

The group is developing partnerships to use ShakeAlert in places such as hospitals, transportation systems, utilities, and educational environments. The USGS’s goal was to start sending public notifications in California through the Wireless Emergency Alert System and the MyShake smartphone app in late 2019 and to expand geographically in the future.

Earthquake Preparedness Training Is Essential

Alerts can give people precious time to react before an earthquake, but employees and members of the public need training to know what to do and act quickly. Respond Systems offers earthquake preparedness training for workers, students, and others so they will know what to do in the critical seconds before the ground starts shaking. If you own a business located in a region at risk of earthquakes, this training can save lives and prevent catastrophic damage. Contact Respond Systems today to learn more or to schedule a class.