SACRAMENTO -- Moments before you even feel an earthquake, ShakeAlert is designed to give you a warning.
“We have seismometers out in the field that detect ground motion. Those devices pick up the moving ground really quickly, send information to a processing center that makes the decision on whether to issue a ‘ShakeAlert,’” ShakeAlert communications coordinator Robert de Groot said.
The mobile app, run by the US Geological Survey, is in development to be rolled out across the West Coast in California, Washington and Oregon.
“Just a couple of seconds count,” de Groot said. “You can protect yourself, get under a table or take some other protective action.”
The app is already being used in Southern California, but no warning went out to neighbors in Los Angeles County during last week’s earthquakes. That’s because the shaking levels in their area did not reach the system’s threshold for sending out an alert.
“One of the steps we’re taking immediately with the city is to lower the basic threshold for ShakeAlert released to magnitude 4.5. It was originally magnitude 5,” de Groot said.
There is no timeline for when the app will reach Sacramento, but de Groot says these recent earthquakes have inspired them to speed up testing.
In the meantime, University of California, Davis professor of geology Michael Oskin recommends taking steps to prepare yourself.
“One of the most predictable things about earthquakes is they have aftershocks, so they trigger more earthquakes around them,” Oskin said.
While Sacramento is not on a fault line, Oskin says a large earthquake in the Bay Area could lead to damage here.
“It’s really hard to associate a size with what could happen here but it could be something. Probably a magnitude 7 plus is the sort of size that is going to cause a lot of widespread damage and far-reaching damage,” Oskin told FOX40.
Oskin says the Central Valley would more likely see the impacts through issues with our water supply, transportation systems and power outages.
“Have some supplies to be able to be on your own for at least a few days,” Oskin said.
ShakeAlert is already sending out information directly to trains and public transit systems in the Bay Area so they can slow down ahead of any shaking.