California is expected to launch its first statewide earthquake early warning system Thursday, according to a release by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
The day coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake that happened in the San Francisco Bay area on Oct 17, 1989, killing 63 people.
The warnings will be produced by the ShakeAlert system and will be pushed through two delivery systems: a cellphone app called MyShake, and the same wireless notification system that issues Amber Alerts.
The state earthquake app was developed at the University of California, Berkeley. It will be available for download to IOS users through iTunes and GooglePlay stores for Android phones.
According to Richard Allen, the director of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, the threshold for alerts are an earthquake of magnitude 4.5 and shaking intensity level 3.
The system is not designed to predict earthquakes but uses numerous seismic stations to detect the start of an earthquake and light-speed communications to send the data to computers. The computers instantly calculate location, magnitude, the intensity of shaking, and create alerts to be distributed to areas that will be affected.
The alerts may give warnings of several seconds to a minute before shaking arrives at a given location, depending on distance from the epicenter. The time will be enough to take precautionary measures like ducking under desks, pulling a surgical knife away from the patient, or shutting down industrial processes.
California Governor Gavin Newsom encouraged residents to use the system and prepare for the next earthquake.