ShakeAlert alerts people in the area of the California earthquake

Bay Area earthquake came with early warning for 2.1 million ShakeAlert app users

The early warning that came with the earthquake that devastated Napa and Sonoma counties in California was for the city of Sonoma, about 100 miles northwest of San Francisco, said Matt Pascual, director of public information for ShakeAlert, a company that created the app.

The application is a free, online alert system that anyone with internet access, in a specific area of the continental United States, can download and then use to get an up-to-the-minute message if something is about to happen.

“People are very aware of this time of year, and they want to know if something’s going to happen,” Pascual said. “If there’s a big earthquake, it’s a good time to know.”

“It’s a very effective tool,” he said. “Everyone wants information because right now is a very volatile situation right now.”

This was the first earthquake with an alert in the ShakeAlert system since the February earthquake that devastated central Mexico.

Before the California quake struck, the company installed the app for 2.1 million users in Napa and Sonoma counties, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in Silicon Valley and around San Jose.

The app can help with earthquake preparedness in the Bay Area, and in particular in Sonoma and Napa, where the region is particularly vulnerable because of its location on a fault line, Pascual said.

“This earthquake, for example, was 1,000 times stronger than the last big one, a magnitude 9.5 earthquake,” he said. “So everyone there is likely to be under its sway.

“Even if you live in Napa, you’re still going to feel it.”

How the ShakeAlert app works

First, the app shows users a graphic that shows the earthquake’s epicentre and the area affected.

The user then selects an area to which they want to send text messages. Pascual said each text message is one of five types:

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