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2.2M Received Quake Warnings Up to 19 Seconds Before Shake

Android phones have the technology built in. In addition, 95,000 MyShake app users also received it.

California’s first-in-the-nation earthquake early-warning system provided advance notification to more than 2.2 million Californians before shaking started for the 5.1 magnitude earthquake that was felt Tuesday throughout the Bay Area.

In many locations, Californians got as much as 19 seconds’ warning to take protective action — “drop, cover, and hold on” — and stay safe during the earthquake. An estimated 2.1 million Android users received the notification directly on their phone without needing an additional app because the technology is built in on Android smartphones, in addition to more than 95,000 MyShake App users who also received the warning. The app can be downloaded here for Android users who don’t have it.

“California continues to harness the power of science and technology to help keep our communities safe. When it comes to earthquakes, seconds can save lives. That’s why California continues to invest in new and emerging technologies to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a news release.

There were no reports of significant damage or injuries related to the earthquake, whose epicenter was in the community of Seven Trees and was felt across large portions of Northern California. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), which manages the earthquake warning system, continues to coordinate closely with local officials in the impacted region to evaluate any issues or unmet needs, the governor’s office said.

“Due to the success of Tuesday’s performance, the earthquake early-warning system saw more than 108,000 new downloads of the MyShake app in a single day, a record,” the news release noted.

“In addition to the emergency alerts sent to individuals through MyShake and Android, the underlying technology is also being used to automate protective actions such as slowing trains, opening firehouse doors, recalling elevators, shutting off water and gas valves as well as closing bridges gates and notifying personnel in school and medical settings,” the news release said.

“While California has faced fires, drought and even a global pandemic, the single biggest threat we face to life and property in our state is a sizable earthquake in one of our major population centers,” said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci. “Tuesday was another important step in testing our technology, but work still remains to prepare for the next big one.”

The California earthquake early-warning system combines a smartphone app with conventional alerts such as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The system uses ground motion sensors from across the state to detect earthquakes before humans can feel them. This year, the MyShake app initiated a feature called HomeBase, which allows users to set a default location where they can receive early-warning alerts, even if location services are temporarily down or turned off.