By Erin E. Cooper | Concordia/Vernon/Woodlawn Neighborhood Emergency Team
What could you do with three to 10 seconds of warning before an earthquake?
Those seconds could be enough to take steps to prevent injury or even save your life.
Oregon’s new ShakeAlert system receives information from seismic detectors across the West Coast and sends a warning to cell phones in areas that will be affected by shaking. The system is not predicting earthquakes, but is sensing earthquakes that have already begun and alerting users before the shaking starts.
It’s not necessary to sign up for alerts, since they’ll come through the Wireless Emergency Alerts system, similar to Amber Alerts or other imminent threats, such as tornadoes.
These alerts will start when your location is expected to experience “light” shaking or stronger. It’s also possible, but not required, to download the MyShake App on Google and Android phones, which will alert you when “weak” or stronger shaking is expected.
What should you do with your seconds of warning about an impending earthquake?
The ShakeAlert will remind you to drop, cover and hold on. Rather than spending the first few seconds of the earthquake trying to identify the unique sensation, you’ll be ready to act. Get off that ladder or move away from the glass window, and the probability of getting through with no or minimal injuries is much better.
In the future, ShakeAlert will also connect to more than just individuals. By shutting off gas, water and the electric grid in the moments before shaking starts, ShakeAlert could save critical infrastructure, making it both faster and cheaper to get services back up and running.
Although ShakeAlert may save lives and minimize injuries, it’s not an infallible system. If you feel shaking, take action immediately, without waiting for your phone to alert you.
For more information on what to during an earthquake, including for those with limited mobility, visit Ready.gov/earthquakes.
Erin E. Cooper is a marine biologist living in Woodlawn. She spends a lot of time thinking about disasters and has been a NET member for many years. Contact her at OceanListener@gmail. com.