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New California app can warn people when an earthquake is about to hit

Posted at 6:30 PM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-17 22:06:20-04

MyShake, also known as America's first statewide earthquake emergency system, is designed to give people valuable time to prepare and be safe before the shaking hits.

"When you first start to feel the shake, there's always that moment where you sort of sit in your chair and then you're like, 'is it, is it?' and then you look at any object to see if it's moving around. I think any advanced warning would be great," said Sam Weller, California resident.

"I think that would be really helpful. Kind of like a tsunami warning or something but for California and we have lots of earthquakes here so we would need that," said Mindy May, Cambria resident.

Sensors throughout the state can detect when an earthquake happens before people can even feel them.

The app will then send an alert for quakes bigger than a 4.5 magnitude.

But the number of seconds you'll have to prepare will vary.

"The further you are from an earthquake, the longer it takes the waves from the epicenter to get to you," said Tim Cleath, CEO, Cleath-Haris Geologists, Inc.

Whether it be just a second or two or up to 20, an early warning can't hurt.

"One of the things that we like to do is be prepared and even if it's 30 seconds, being prepared ahead of time for something as catastrophic as an earthquake, it's going to help a little bit," said Joe Guzzardi, County of San Luis Obispo Emergency Services Manager.

Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday he understands that the app is a work in progress and it's not a perfect system, but it's a step in the right direction.

"A big leap forward in terms of focusing attention on prevention," Newsom said.

MyShake is the first of its kind but some say with technology advancing, it may be possible to even predict quakes in the future.

"I think with time, yes. At higher levels of magnitude it will be easier to predict," Cleath said.

The app's release today isn't a coincidence. This also marks the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake and California's Shakeout drill.

The MyShake app, developed at the University of California, Berkeley, is available for download on the Apple App Store and through Google Play.