New Technology Can Put Earthquake Alerts on Cell Phones – Oroville Mercury Register

CHICO — A magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck Tuesday at 11:42 a.m. 12 miles from San Jose, California.

It wasn’t a big tremor, but it was enough to get people talking. There is now new technology that can detect and warn of earthquakes.

In Chico State, in the new science building, there is a device called the Heliquarter, which is a computer monitor that tracks and displays seismic data. On Thursday, the monitor was tracking data in Alaska.

There used to be a seismograph in the basement of the old Science Building, according to Chico State Education and Research Support Coordinator Bill Koperwhats, who works in the geology department.

“It was pretty cool,” Koperwhats said. “Students would see it on tours. But the technology was really old, dating back to the 1980s or 1990s.”

Koperwhats said when he arrived in Chico state in 2007, the machine stopped working. He removed it and replaced it with a kiosk, a large monitor connected to a computer that can pull live data from seismic stations around the world.

“Kids can walk through and see where the data is being recorded from,” Koperwhats said.

Koperwhats said that Robert Allen, a professor at UC Berkeley, developed an app called MyShake. This app can get seismic network data and uses a sensor in mobile phones to detect tremors and earthquakes. It was released in 2019. It doesn’t predict earthquakes, but 50 seconds to a minute before an earthquake, it can warn the cellphone owner what’s coming based on the seismic data.

“It works in California, Washington and Oregon,” Koperwhats said. “It warns you before seismic energy reaches your location and gives you a few seconds to duck, cover and prepare.”

Koperwhats said Mexico City has had an early warning system for nearly a decade.

“The earthquakes in Mexico City happen on the coast,” he said. “When detected, the system gives up to a minute and a half advance warning before the seismic waves occur. It has saved many lives.”

Koperwhats said when an earthquake is detected, seismic energy can travel 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) per second. If you are 100 km (62 miles) from the epicenter, you have 10 seconds before the shock wave hits you and you receive a notification from MyShake on your phone. MyShake is available for both Android and iPhone.

The Gateway Science Museum currently has an exhibit entitled Earthquakes and Epidemics. There is a kiosk there that shows live seismic data.

In addition to the MyShake app, Early Warning Labs’ QuakeAlertUSA app provides alerts for even lower magnitude earthquakes to those who download them.

Early Warning Labs announced Tuesday that it had sent alerts to 928 users on Android and iOS devices through the QuakeAlertUSA app. Those users, the company said, would be expected to experience a level 3 tremor on the modified Mercali intensity scale, which measures the intensity of an earthquake.

According to Early Warning Labs, the US Geological Survey rules require the earthquake to have a magnitude greater than 4.5 and the predicted intensity of MMI 3 to receive an early warning.

To get an earthquake alert:

• Wireless emergency alerts such as US Geological Survey’s AMBER Alert and ShakeAlert are delivered by FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Alert System. Signing up for notifications isn’t required, but make sure you haven’t turned off the option. If you have any questions, contact your wireless service provider.

• The MyShake app is available free of charge in the Apple App and Google Play stores. Learn more: https://myshake.berkeley.edu/

• The QuakeAlertUSA app is available free of charge from the Apple App and Google Play stores. Learn more: https://earlywarninglabs.com/mobile-app/.

• Google offers a ShakeAlert-powered earthquake alert feature built into the Android operating system. In your phone’s settings, go to the “Security & Emergency” option and select “Earthquake Alerts”.

The Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.

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