MyShake app gives earthquake info as California prepares for readiness test

Statewide ‘Great California ShakeOut’ test planned for Thursday

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 19 October 2023 18:17 BST
WATCH: An earthquake simulator shakes up reporter, California emergency official

A magnitude 4.1 earthquake that struck Northern California on Wednesday morning, combined with an upcoming statewide earthquake practice drill, has many in the Golden State thinking about disaster readiness.

Scientists at the UC Berkeley Seismology Lab have developed a tool that many in California may want to add to their earthquake emergency supplies: the MyShake app.

The app integrates data from the US Geological Survey, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and lists damage reports and safety tips.

It also converts users’ cell phones into mini-earthquake sensors themselves.

The Northern California earthquake on Wednesday came a day before California is set to conduct a statewide test of its earthquake readiness called the Great California ShakeOut, during a massive drill asking residents to “drop, cover, and hold on” on 19 October at 10.19am.

As part of the ShakeOut, an estimated 2.8m users of the state’s MyShake app will receive a test earthquake alert with warnings in English and Spanish for a fictitious 5.0 earthquake centred around San Francisco.

Seismologists believe California is overdue for an earthquake known colloquially as “The Big One“ along the San Andreas Fault.

The quake could cause up to 1,800 deaths and $200bn of damage in Southern California, scientists estimate.

In the event of an earthquake, emergency officials recommend people drop, cover and hold, according to the federal website, getting on hands and knees, covering the head and neck with their arms, and seeking shelter under a sturdy table or desk if possible.

People are also advised to avoid windows and stay near interior walls during an earthquake.

The Earthquake Country Alliance also recommends identifying potential home hazards like non-anchored furniture ahead of time, making an emergency plan with loved ones, organise emergency supplies in an easy-to-reach location, and securing important documents.

Wednesday’s quake, at least, didn’t seem to cause too many issues.

Jack Doelscher, who was at Java Jack’s Cafe in Isleton when the shaking began, said he felt the immediate impacts in the town of Isleton, near the epicentre.

“Oh, it was a good rocking,” he told The San Francisco Standard. “But we survived.”

Some residents of San Francisco said they felt shaking from the quake in the Russian Hill neighbourhood.

Large quakes have hit the region before though.

Wednesday’s earthquake came just a day after the 34th anniversary of the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake in the Bay Area, which killed 63 people and injured an estimated 3,700.

The massive 6.9 magnitude earthquake in the Santa Cruz mountains flattened road infrastructure and tore out parts of the Bay Bridge, causing an estimated $10bn in damages.

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