It may only provide a tiny heads up, but even a few seconds could be crucial when it comes to earthquakes. The new QuakeAlert app can give users a warning about impending tremors which could save lives, avoid injury, and cut losses to businesses.
The California-based startup Early Warning Labs has teamed up with the US Geological Survey to create the QuakeAlert app over the next three years. Built around cloud technology, QuakeAlert is a smartphone app and in–home alarm system that notifies users within a few seconds of an incoming earthquake – about 30 seconds, according to TechCrunch. It does this through a countdown and alarm tone. It also delivers information on a quake’s intensity.
“The objective of an earthquake early warning system is to rapidly detect the initiation of an earthquake, estimate the level of ground shaking intensity to be expected, and issue a warning before significant ground shaking starts,” the company states on its website.
The app is built around a network of seismic sensors that detect the first energy to emerge from an earthquake before the shaking begins, which the app can use to send early warning to its users in the affected areas. A few moments notice can help save lives and give town and city officials enough time “to shut gas lines, stop mass transit, open firehouse doors, and take other steps that may help reduce damage or speed recovery,” according to CBS News.
Additionally, the app will provide tips on what to do if a user is indoors, outdoors, or in a moving vehicle when an earthquake strikes.
The app itself will be free of charge, but each in-home alarm system will sell for about $100 each, EWL co-founder Josh Bashioum told TechCrunch. Both are currently available for pre-order on the company’s website.
Earthquakes cost American businesses billions of dollars in losses a year, according to the USGS. In the past 30 days alone, there have been 1,400 earthquake strikes across the world – with the US experiencing 160 of them. Just this past Wednesday, Kansas and Oklahoma felt an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.8 on the Richter scale.
The number of earthquakes hitting the US has also risen over the past few years, which the USGS has linked to increased oil and gas exploration in some cases. According to the agency, “nearly 450 earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and larger occurred in the four years from 2010-2013, over 100 per year on average, compared with an average rate of 20 earthquakes per year observed from 1970-2000.”