At 8:00 a.m. this morning, Kitsap County, along with the rest of Washington State, launched ShakeAlert® Earthquake Early Warning System (EEW) joining forces with Oregon and California to complete the west coast roll out of this new technology. This system is capable of giving residents seconds of warning before earthquake shaking arrives. These additional few seconds of warning sent to cell phones and other devices will help us take needed safety measures for wherever we may be at the time, and has the potential to save many lives.
It’s important to know that this is not earthquake prediction. The alert system rapidly detects and provides information about earthquakes that have already begun and includes an estimate of the earthquake size, precise location and the shaking it may produce. Alerts may be delivered to mobile phones and integrated safety systems in areas that could experience weak or greater shaking in Washington state. This video from IRIS Earthquake Consortium, has a detailed explanation of how the system functions from the earliest signs of an earthquake to sending the alerts.
Since the majority of earthquake-related injuries are caused by people getting hit by falling objects or falling down while moving during the shaking, seconds of warning will let people take protective action before shaking begins, reducing the chance of injuries. In most situations, drop, cover and hold on is the recommended way to protect yourself during earthquakes. Preparedness actions taken beforehand like making sure your home is built to withstand earthquakes, securing heavy furniture to walls, and securely mounting objects that could fall and can greatly reduce some of the additional hazards caused during strong ground shaking.
The sensor network is only about 65% complete for Washington state. Additional work with alert distribution partners is needed to improve the delivery speed of alerts to mobile phones for all earthquakes. Algorithms that estimate earthquake size and shaking continue to be tested and improved to ensure the system’s performance in megathrust events. Several sites are needed in Kitsap County and if you are interested in more information about hosting a ShakeAlert® sensor you can find that information here. This system is operated by the U.S Geological Survey in cooperation with the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.
The system also has the potential to automatically close water valves to protect water supplies, lift fire station doors so first responders can get vehicles and equipment out, slow down trains so they don’t derail and even warn hospitals to halt surgeries, among many other capabilities. Dozens of pilot projects in Washington are already testing this technology to reduce earthquake damage including some of the infrastructure in Kitsap.
Check to see if you have your phone set to receive alerts, more information on how to do this can be found here.