It was heralded as the biggest test yet of the warning system since its public launch as an alert was sent to 3 million smartphone users ordering them to “drop, cover, and hold on” as sensors picked up the first signals of a significant earthquake jolting the Northern California coast.
The magnitude 6.4 earthquake that struck early on Tuesday, upending thousands of homes, cutting out power and water, and injuring more than a dozen people, was felt most strongly by the residents who didn’t have enough time to flee.
Security officer Jimmy Eller claimed he was already feeling the effects of the severe earthquake when he noticed the warning on his phone while parked in his Chevy Malibu.
As the street lamps started to swing, he was more attentive to what was happening outside.
Eller remarked, “They were all swaying, flashing on and off.” “In the distance, I could see wires and breakers flashing like lightning.
It was frightening. Everything was trembling and shifting, as you could see.
Nearby to the little hamlet of Ferndale, the earthquake’s epicenter was located around 210 miles (345 kilometers) northwest of San Francisco.
Since its public debut in 2016, the ShakeAlert early warning system has issued alerts for several large-scale earthquakes.
Brian Ferguson, a California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services spokesman, called it “truly a pioneering, first-in-the-nation technique that hopefully saves lives.”
Researchers from universities created ShakeAlert, which Americans run.
Geographic survey It is one of a few earthquake warning systems developed worldwide in recent years, including in Japan and Mexico.
However, there are specific difficulties with the new technology used in California, Oregon, and Washington.
Before notifications are transmitted to people’s phones, several seismometers must find movement beneath the Earth’s surface.
The location and magnitude of the earthquake can then be determined using that information.
According to Robert de Groot, a seismometer expert, the entire process—from seismometer detection to send an alert—is automated.
Some users got the alert 10 seconds before it was supposed to.
According to de Groot, the system’s design may have prevented individuals nearest to the epicenter of the earthquake from receiving an alarm before they felt any shaking.
Jen Olson, whose home is near Arcata, which is around 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the epicenter, reported being startled by both shaking and the sound of her phone ringing.
Although unsure of what initially awakened her, she claims that the loud boom and bright light from her phone likely helped her recognize how severe the earthquake was.
She hastily stood up and made her way to the back door, worried about her dog, who was sound asleep in a crate and prepared to either take cover there or leave the house if it started to fall.
If the phone hadn’t been making a lot of noise, she claimed, “it might have taken longer for the shaking to wake me awake.”
The city manager of Ferndale, Jay Parrish, claimed he was unaware of anyone receiving the notice.
He didn’t believe an earthquake warning system could give enough information before a major tragedy, unlike a tsunami or flooding, where there is plenty of time to prepare.
Without more information, de Groot claimed that it would be difficult to determine why someone who was supposed to have received the notice did not.
Wireless Emergency Alerts, the federal system that delivers Amber Alerts to phones, may have had some users off their notifications.
A San Diego-based earthquake warning app bug that uses the system’s data misled users more than 650 miles (1,040 kilometers) away from the epicenter.
According to de Groot, this was the first time the system warned citizens in California and Oregon.
Research is currently being conducted to look into alerting in Alaska in the future.
Several apps use ShakeAlert’s data to alert users who might be subject to substantial seismic effects.
The Tuesday earthquake in Northern California was felt within a 250-mile (400-kilometer) radius of the epicenter, according to Richard Allen, head of the Seismology Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.
The Seismology Lab described why we couldn’t predict when an earthquake will occur before it begins in a blog post from 2021.
It stated, “Seismologists have all but given up trying to attain the elusive aim of predicting when a major quake would happen since the physical processes along an earthquake fault before and during a rupture are so complex.”
The lab created the MyShake app, which informed roughly 270,000 locals about the earthquake.