If you live in any of the states along the US West Coast, you’re now covered by the US Geological Survey’s ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system. The USGS announced the expansion today, explaining that the three states in the US most prone to earthquakes — Washington, Oregon, and California — can now deliver mobile alerts when an earthquake is about to strike.
The USGS has been steadily rolling out its earthquake early warning system across the US West Coast; it started with California in 2019 and arrived in Oregon in March. In its latest announcement, the agency says it has also expanded the system to cover Washington, officially covering the full western coast of the United States.
The early warning system uses the FEMA Wireless Emergency Alert system to deliver mobile alerts to residents in impacted areas, according to the USGS, which notes that some third-party apps can also receive and deliver the earthquake warnings. The detection takes place using USGS ANSS sensor data, which includes sensor information from participating monitoring networks.
These sensitive sensor-based monitoring networks are able to pick up on the subtle movements that indicate an earthquake is about to happen, giving officials enough time to alert the people who live in the region. This early alert provides residents with enough time to take cover and get out of risky environments, helping reduce the number of injuries that may result and, potentially, save lives.
Likewise, the detection system has supported automatic actions for the past few years, meaning the detection of an earthquake can trigger the automatic slowing of trains, close gas and water system valves, open firehouse doors, and similar activities that will help keep everyone safe during the event.