SD Emergency App Users Now Can Have Earthquake Early Warning

San Diego County’s SD Emergency app is now equipped with ShakeReadySD, an earthquake early warning system, officials said Wednesday.

The feature is intended to let users know if an earthquake has occurred nearby that is likely to cause shaking within seconds. If so, it will urge them to take protective action such as drop, cover and hold or another appropriate safety measure.

County officials were joined by a U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wednesday to roll out the change to the mobile app at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Kearny Mesa.

“This is an early warning system that has the potential to give users a few seconds warning or a heads up that an earthquake is coming,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher said. “And that advance warning could make all the difference. It could give you a number of seconds to be able to move your family, your friends into a safe place and help avoid serious injury.”

The county’s Office of Emergency Services has been working with the USGS on the alert for more than a year. The federal agency has a network of more than 770 underground sensors and other technologies built to protect residents and visitors throughout California as part of its ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning system, which is what powers the ShakeReadySD component of the SD Emergency App.

This is the first time the ShakeAlert system has been integrated into an existing emergency app.

“When it comes to disasters, we plan for all hazards — earthquakes, fires, floods, terrorism, extreme weather,” said Jeff Toney, director of the county OES. “And our SD Emergency app is a one-of-a-kind tool designed to provide all San Diegans valuable information before, during, and after disasters — all in the palm of your hand.”

The technology is designed to trigger an alert to a users’ cell phone if they are close enough to an earthquake with a magnitude 4.5 or greater and with a shaking intensity of 3 or greater. Following the alert, the app could provide emergency notifications such as road closures, shelters or other relevant critical information.

Since it is tied to the statewide system of sensors, it will work anywhere in the state to alert people about imminent shaking.

“ShakeReadySD can save lives and reduce injuries by giving people time to take a protective action like drop, cover, and hold on or move away from hazardous areas,” said Robert-Michael de Groot of the USGS. “We look forward to working with San Diego County to provide real-time earthquake early warning alerts powered by ShakeAlert.”

In order for the new feature to work, users who already have the app will need to update it and then configure the settings including selecting English or Spanish and allowing the app to always track the phone’s location so it can accurately alert the user.

The app is available for iOs and Android phones and is free.