Can This New Earthquake App Save Lives When the Big One Hits?

A powerful earthquake is coming. That’s a sure thing, but we’re not sure just when. But the ShakeAlertLA app may give us a clue. 

If you live in LA—or anywhere in California for that matter—you know about the risk of earthquakes. There are 15,700 known faults in the state, and at least 500 are active. The majority of Californians live within 30 miles of an active fault. There’s a 99% chance of a 6.7-magnitude earthquake occurring within the next 30 years. 

That’s basically a sure thing, so what are you going to do about it? There’s really no certain way to defend yourself against an earthquake, except to not be there when it happens. 

But it’s impossible for you to know precisely when a big earthquake will happen, right? That belief may no longer be entirely accurate. As they say, whatever you need, there’s an app for that. And that app is called ShakeAlertLA. 

The Origin of ShakeAlertLA

The ShakeAlertLA app is the result of a partnership between the City of LA and the ShakeAlert system of the US Geological Survey. This ShakeAlert system has up to 400 seismic sensors in various states, including California, Washington, and Oregon, and the crucial seismic information will come from these sensors. 

LA also provided an estimated $300,000 in funds for AT&T and the GRYD Foundation to create an app that can then use the sensor data to send out appropriate mobile alerts. 

How Does the App Work?

The app relies on the data provided by the sensors and will give warnings when a strong earthquake is indicated. When the sensors detect signs that a coming earthquake is of magnitude 5.0 or greater, the app will then push notifications for users. At the very least, people can try to get themselves to safer places. The app offers a 1-minute head start. That may not be enough to get to proper shelter, but even the warning can help as people won’t be too shocked when the ground begins to shake. 

The app is already out, and if you’re anywhere in California (especially in LA), you really should get the app and install it. The LA County has made it available in Google Play and iTunes stores recently, and the County even used Twitter to spread the news. 

Since it’s a brand new app, you shouldn’t be surprised that there have been a few hiccups along the way. After all, this is the initial version and some of the kinks haven’t been ironed out yet. 

A lot of complaints have been voiced about the apps stability (which is somewhat ironic given the earthquake subject matter). A sizable number of users have reported that the app crashed upon launch. That’s not the only functionality issue as well. 

There’s also rising concern about privacy and Big Brother. ShakeAlertLA collects user location data because the app requires you to enable location tracking so you only get relevant push alerts. But then not everyone feels fine that such data will be in the hands of a government agency. 

Still, it’s a good start. Just don’t forget about proper emergency preparations. In California, it’s always a good policy to be prepared for earthquakes.

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