The USGS ShakeAlert™ Earthquake Early Warning system is now available, as of January 26th, on all smartphones in Washington to provide important seconds of warning to protect yourself and others before earthquake shaking arrives at your location.
Before today’s announcement there were 2 ways to receive earthquake early warnings on smartphones warning shaking is about to occur.
- built-in software on Android Phones (for estimated magnitude 4.5 and higher events)
- notifications via the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system (for estimated magnitude 5.0 and higer events)
The MyShake App, available to be downloaded to Android and Apple iPhones, provides coverage in California, Oregon and Washington using ground sensors connected to the ShakeAlert® Earthquake Early Warning system. The system is operated by the US Geological Survey in cooperation with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN).
The MyShake App is the only smartphone app capable of delivering earthquake early warnings in Washington state at this time. It provides notifications in the event of estimated magnitude 4.5 and higher earthquake events. A warning tone precedes the audio earthquake warning, “Earthquake. Drop, cover, hold on. Shaking expected.”
Smartphones are already set up to deliver warnings in Washington via Wireless Emergency Alerts. Officials recommend Apple iPhone users download and install the MyShake app, “because based on performance in California, MyShake delivers alerts slightly faster than WEA.” They added, “Android’s system is also faster.”
USGS and PNSN officials say that after receiving an early warning, recipients should not panic but instead use the extra time to take effective action. This does not mean to run but instead follow the instructions in the message and find a nearby location to take cover and hold on. Most earthquake-related injuries are the result of falling down and being struck by objects falling inside and outside of buildings.
Officials emphasize this not an earthquake prediction system. Instead, utilizing a network of hundreds of seismic monitoring stations across the state, the system can assess initial, less harmful, waves generated by earthquakes and determine whether a warning is warranted and where. This assessment takes only a few seconds and, when warranted, can result in sending out a warning a few seconds later.
More information about the MyShake App and other Washington state alert and warning notification systems can be found at https://mil.wa.gov/alerts.