Early Morning Earthquake Alert Test Jolts West Coast Residents
Residents of the West Coast were startled awake on Thursday morning when they received an unexpected earthquake alert test on their mobile phones. However, the alert was sent due to a time zone mix-up, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The noisy alerts were generated by MyShake, an early-warning app for earthquakes developed by the University of California, Berkeley. The app, which has been downloaded 1.4 million times, is intended for users in California, Oregon, and Washington. It also has the capability to send alerts to other users outside of these states.
The planned test alert was scheduled to be sent out at 10:19 a.m. Pacific time but was mistakenly sent at 3:19 a.m. instead. The error occurred because 3:19 a.m. Pacific time is equivalent to 10:19 a.m. Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The alert, which claimed to have been sent at 10:19 a.m. UTC, awakened many individuals in the early morning hours.
Reactions and Apologies for the Early Morning Alert
Several people who received the alert reported being awakened by a recorded voice saying, “This is a test,” as shared on social media platforms. The USGS acknowledged the inconvenience caused by the early morning alert and apologized for any disruption caused.
Angie Lux, a project scientist for earthquake early warning at the Berkeley Seismology Lab, commented that the incident did not impact the real-time alert system of MyShake. Rather, it served as a reminder that earthquakes can strike at any moment.
Later in the day, another test alert was sent at the planned time of 10:19 a.m. Pacific time, ensuring that users received the test as intended.
ShakeAlert: A System for Early Earthquake Warnings
MyShake relies on ShakeAlert, a system managed by the USGS, to provide early earthquake warnings. ShakeAlert, currently utilized in California, Oregon, and Washington, helps detect earthquakes and estimate areas that may experience intense shaking. Governments can send ShakeAlert information to various communication channels such as televisions, telephones, and radios. Additionally, private apps like MyShake collaborate with ShakeAlert to broadcast warnings to users.
These alerts aim to provide users with a few seconds of warning to take cover while allowing organizations to implement necessary measures to protect people and critical equipment.
Continuous Improvement of ShakeAlert
According to Robert-Michael de Groot, a spokesman for ShakeAlert, the system is in a constant state of improvement. Each event, like the recent early morning alert, provides valuable insights for enhancing the early-warning system.
Approximately 143 million Americans reside in areas with potential earthquake risks, as reported by the USGS. To promote earthquake preparedness, an annual national earthquake drill called “The Great ShakeOut” encourages families, schools, businesses, and organizations to practice safety measures during earthquakes.
Past Mistakes and Lessons Learned
The incident of an erroneous alert is not uncommon in the realm of emergency management. In Florida, the Division of Emergency Management issued a screeching alarm during a test of the emergency alert system, prompting an apology from the organization.
In a more serious incident, Hawaii experienced a false alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile, causing panic among its residents. The false alarm was attributed to a worker with a history of poor performance who believed there was an actual threat.
Real-Life Earthquake Activation in Northern California
Meanwhile, in Northern California, the ShakeAlert system was activated after an earthquake struck Sacramento County. Initially registered as a magnitude 5 earthquake, the alert was later downgraded to a magnitude 4.2.
These incidents serve as reminders of the ongoing efforts to improve early warning systems and ensure accurate and timely information reaches the public.
Read More of this Story at www.nytimes.com – 2023-10-20 04:27:00
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