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Why Some Shake Alerts and Others Not – CBS Sacramento




SACRAMENTO (CBS 13) – The questions surrounding last night’s earthquake near Lake Tahoe have shifted from “Did you feel it?” To “Did you receive a vibration alert?”

Within seconds, thousands of phones started chirping, but many others remained silent.

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If you have an Android device, the alarm system is already built into the phone, but if you have an iPhone or something else, some other factors may have kept you out of the loop.

“My house shook completely and I didn’t know what it was in the beginning,” said Mark Cadena, who lives in Truckee.

Nor did people whose phones start to hype that danger was near.

“The ShakeAlert system, which was operating at great speed, estimated the earthquake was 6 magnitude,” said Robert de Groot of the USGS. “That changed very quickly, in about a tenth of a second, and we reduced it to 4.7.”

The earthquake, which struck 11 miles northwest of Truckee, was felt in Reno, Sacramento and Stockton, but the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) says that unless you have the state’s MyShake app, you may have missed it.

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“You can set the alarm on the MyShake app at different thresholds, so sometimes earthquakes are higher than thresholds set on individual phones,” said Brian May, of Cal OES.

The system, launched in 2019, uses 800 ground motion sensors to send warnings to people via their cell phones before the strongest vibration begins. How quickly you receive an alert depends on how far away you are from the epicenter.

“It’s a great reminder that we leave the cap and hang on,” said May. “It’s a great reminder that just a few seconds warning can be huge.”

Android devices are already equipped with an earthquake early warning system channel. Other users can turn on their own wireless emergency alerts, which work even if your phone is in Do Not Disturb mode, but these alerts only occur when the earthquake is magnitude 5 or higher.

“Even the seconds that you get these kinds of alerts can help people, wherever you are,” May said.

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More than 1.3 million people have downloaded Shake Alert. Cal OES said she expects and hopes this number will jump, especially after yesterday’s earthquake.


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