- Residents of Los Angeles can now receive an early warning notification of an earthquake to an app the city launched called ShakeAlertLA, according to USA Today and others.
- The app will alert users to an earthquake of greater than magnitude 5.0 or level IV intensity that has been detected, and that they may soon feel shaking.
- The app is built on the ShakeAlert system developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, in partnership with Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA’s Information Technology Agency and the Department of Emergency Management. It is available to both iOS and Android users.
Earthquakes are a matter of when — not if. We're officially launching #ShakeAlertLA tomorrow, and today you can become one of the first to use our early warning technology.— Mayor Eric Garcetti (@MayorOfLA) January 2, 2019
Download the app here → https://t.co/ePpzodn53p pic.twitter.com/XMc1aqUP90
In its resilience strategy filed with global group 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), Los Angeles pledged to launch an earthquake early warning system to "provide Angelenos with advance warning of earthquakes through smartphones, desktops and other notification systems."
The strategy noted the city has the highest concentration of earthquakes sensors in the country, so it is an "ideal site" for such a program and could attract more state and federal partners who are looking to invest in such systems on the West Coast. Los Angeles’ location is just 30 miles from the San Andreas fault, a tectonic boundary that has caused major earthquakes, including several in San Francisco.
Scientists have warned LA could be hit by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake. Providing residents as much opportunity as possible to find safety is a valuable benefit, although USA Today noted that if someone is too close to the epicenter of an earthquake, they may not receive a notification. There is also the possibility of the app sending false alarms, like a Hawaii missile warning system did last year.
The app is part of a wider move in cities boosting their resilience by using technology to warn residents of natural disasters. In California, drones are used to monitor wildfires and support firefighters as they deal with blazes, while Houston, TX has introduced a raft of new technology initiatives to help it deal more effectively with hurricanes after it was hammered by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
But privacy concerns abound. For the app to be effective, users must always have their smartphone’s location services switched on, although officials said that when a person’s location is updated it automatically overwrites their previous location, and no other data is collected. After major hacks of cities including Atlanta, it will be imperative that this app be secure, as bad actors could make use of it for false alarms to cause panic or attempt to steal information.