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Google alerted Californians about an earthquake before it hit

Android phones around San Francisco’s Bay Area buzzed with an alert on Tuesday morning: A 4.8 magnitude earthquake was about to hit. “You may have felt shaking,” some of the messages read. Over a million Android The alert was seen by many users. It arrived moments before the ground moved for many users.

It’s not the first time Android Marc Stogaitis (project lead), says devices received the alerts. Android The Earthquake Alerts system. Because the Bay Area has so many people, the alert reached enough phone numbers to be noticed by the wider public. Earthquakes can strike without warning and have always caught people unaware, leaving them without any advance notice. Alerts like this aim to take some of the unpredictability out of earthquakes—even if by just a few seconds.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is build an earthquake early warning industry,” says Robert de Groot, who is part of the ShakeAlert operations team, a project under the United States Geological Survey that detects the first signs of earthquakes. “We’re doing things that we haven’t really ever thought of.”

The tech does not predict earthquakes—no one can do that, and the USGS also says it does not think it will learn to predict earthquakes “within the foreseeable future.” But it does detect them earlier than people usually feel them. And experts hope someday the alerts can be sent out even quicker, giving people more time to get out of harm’s way.

Time to go

Tuesday’s Android Alert was powered by data ShakeAlertThe Detects earthquakes on the West Coast, and gives the data to the state governments and other third parties. Google took steps to ensure that this information was more easily accessible in the precious few seconds. The company first integrated the alert into their own system and sent push notifications to those who were interested. Android Smartphones that are located in an earthquake zone can use the app without having to be downloaded separately.

Here’s how it works: When an earthquake occurs, it sends softer seismic waves, known as P waves, through the ground. Not everyone in the earthquake’s area will feel these, but a network of 1,300 USGS sensors do. If four sensors trigger simultaneously, the alert is transmitted to a processing center. The ShakeAlert system will determine if the data matches the criteria and send an alert to a processing center. It’s then that warning systems, like Google’s, an app called MyShake, or government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and transit systems, will interpret the data and send out alerts.

However, there are some limitations. There are limitations. USGS sensors can be expensive and placed strategically on the West Coast. According to de Groot, there will be 1,675 total sensors by 2025. Also, the quickly compiled magnitude measurements are only preliminary; Tuesday’s Android Alarm was raised to warn of an approaching 4.8 magnitude earthquake, but it was not measured until later. adjusted to 5.1.

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