Governor, Google partner to bring earthquake early warning to millions of smart phones

Building upon the success of California’s first-in-the-nation earthquake alert system, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced, in partnership with Google, that the forthcoming update to the company’s Android operating system will incorporate California’s earthquake early warning technology into all Android phones.

The system will use the same data feed to receive and distribute alerts as the state’s Earthquake Early Warning System, which was announced by the Governor and Office of Emergency Services last fall.

“It’s not every day that Silicon Valley looks to state government for state-of-the-art innovation, but that’s exactly what is happening today,” said Newsom. “This announcement means that California’s world-class Earthquake Early Warning System will be a standard function on every Android phone – giving millions precious seconds to drop, cover and hold on when the big one hits.”

Last October, on the 30th anniversary of the deadly Loma Prieta earthquake, Newsom announced the launch of the nation’s first statewide Earthquake Early Warning System, which marries a new smartphone application dubbed “MyShake” with traditional alert and warning delivery methods such as Wireless Emergency Alerts.

While the state’s application has been downloaded more than a million times since being launched, the new Google technology will automatically be included in millions of Android phones used in California, without the need to download a separate app.

The new Google technology builds upon the backbone created by the state to provide critical seconds of advance warning before the ground starts to shake from a nearby quake – enough time to drop, cover and hold on to help prevent injury.

Warnings delivered through the system are based on a computerized program called ShakeAlert, operated by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the U.S. Geological Survey that analyzes data from seismic networks in California, calculates preliminary magnitudes, and then estimates which areas will feel shaking.

Earthquake-prone countries like Mexico and Japan have long had earthquake early warning systems, with alerts typically delivered through cell phones or public address systems. However, California is the first state in the nation to offer earthquake early warning.

Newsom and the legislature made significant investments to fund disaster planning and preparedness – including earthquake early warning – in the 2019 Budget Act.

Last year’s enacted budget included $16.3 million one-time General Fund to finish the build-out of the system, including finishing seismic stations installation, adding GPS stations to the network, improving telemetry and launching an education campaign.

The governor’s budget this year includes an additional allocation of $17.3 million, supported by a one-time loan of the same amount from the School Land Bank Fund, for full operation and maintenance of the system.

To learn more about earthquake preparedness and download the earthquake early warning application, visit earthquake.ca.gov.

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