A few seconds of advanced notice would give citizens enough time to duck and cover, and reduce the likelihood of injury. Tens of seconds could allow time for life-saving measures, like a surgeon finishing an operation or an industrial worker shutting off a gas pipeline.
Los Angeles became the first US city to release an early earthquake warning app to the public. The app, known as ShakeAlertLA, relies on a system developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which has been refining the technology for years.
For many years, researchers have been brainstorming a way to alert residents in the event of the Big One, or even a smaller earthquake that could potentially cause damage.
Though other US cities have yet to reveal the same technology to citizens, early warning apps have already found some success in nations like Mexico and Japan. The timing of an alert depends on both a quake’s magnitude and a person’s location. Warnings could range from two seconds to 90 seconds of advanced notice.
To account for this, the app only issues an alert when an earthquake’s magnitude is at or above 5.0 the point at which minor damage is possible.