Thursday, October 28, 2021
Oct. 28, 2021

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ShakeAlert app goes live May 4 in Washington

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The state is rolling out a new early warning system for earthquakes in our area and the Washington Emergency Management Division is hosting a free webinar to detail the new technology. Operated by the U.S Geological Survey in cooperation with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, the ShakeAlert® system is capable of giving residents seconds of warning before earthquake shaking arrives, and most phones are already setup to receive the alerts.

Maximilian Dixon, Geologic Hazards Supervisor for Washington Emergency Management Division, explains that the ShakeAlert® Earthquake Early Warning system will go live in Washington state on May 4, completing the West Coast roll out of the new technology.

Dixon notes that the system is not an earthquake predictor. ShakeAlert rapidly detects and provides information about earthquakes that have already begun and includes an estimate of the earthquake size, precise location and the shaking it may produce. Alerts may be delivered via text alerts to mobile phones in areas that could experience weak or greater shaking in Washington state.

“Nothing can replace families having an emergency plan in place and being at least two weeks ready,” said Gov. Jay Inslee in a March press release. “We all know an earthquake could strike at any time. An Earthquake Early Warning system could provide the critical time needed for Washingtonians to drop, cover and hold on. It has the potential to save lives and reduce damage to critical infrastructure.”

The system also has the potential to automatically close water valves to protect water supplies, lift fire station doors so first responders can get vehicles and equipment out, slow down trains so they don’t derail and even warn hospitals to halt surgeries, among many other capabilities. Dozens of pilot projects in Washington are already testing this technology to reduce earthquake damage.

There will be no tests on May 4, and users are not required to download an app for the service, but the state is working with third-party vendors on a couple of mobile applications. Washington residents will want to check their phones to ensure that Wireless Emergency Alerts are turned on. Most carriers have this setting turned on automatically, but some people have chosen to disable them.

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