MyShake Shakes California


Thursday, October 17 marked the 30th anniversary of the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake that resulted in 63 dead, 3,011 injured, 1,018 homes destroyed, and over $6 billion in damage. California Governor Gavin Newsom spent the pearl anniversary of the earthquake announcing the launch of a new app called MyShake that alerts people of an earthquake in their area before it occurs. The app was released just in time for the California Shakeout occurring on the same day.
The MyShake app was developed by the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and seeks to send alerts to those who have downloaded the app, warning them of an earthquake before it begins. According to their website, their main goal is to “…provide seconds of warning before the ground starts to shake from a nearby quake — enough time to drop, cover and hold on to prevent injury.” This hope is founded on the principle that the speed of an earthquake as it passes through rock is slower than the speed of communication today. However, one can also receive the alerts through the Wireless Emergency Alerts system, the same system used to issue Amber Alerts.
A month later, the MyShake website boasts 320 thousand downloads and users in more than 80 countries. In his speech to announce the app, Governor Gavin Newsom said, “If millions of people [download the app], we will have points of contact, the ability to crowdsource information, the likes of which no country in the world has advanced.” He then explains how similar systems have been used in Japan, Mexico, and Los Angeles County, but never to the extent that MyShake takes it.
People can report when they feel shaking and others in the path of the earthquake are warned. However, the closer one is to the epicenter of the earthquake, the less warning they will receive. When one is at the epicenter, they will receive no warning. Dr. Richard Allen, the director of Berkeley Seismology Lab, states that “We’re very confident about the system. Now it’s not perfect, it’s still a prototype, but we’re ready. We can reduce the impact of earthquakes and by rolling this out today we’re going to better understand the system and the system will only get better with time.”
MyShake’s ability to detect earthquakes has become readily apparent as they have detected over 980 earthquakes, according to their website. As more and more people download the app, its ability to detect earthquakes will only improve. California residents can remain confident in the knowledge that “The Big One” will not take us by surprise.