California unveils nation's first statewide Earthquake Early Warning System

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Gov. Gavin Newsom used this day, the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, to launch the MyShake app statewide, which is designed to give Californians at least a few seconds to prepare...when the next big one hits.

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"It is appropriate that we are in this region on this day," said Gov. Newsom, as he stood with the San Francisco skyline behind him at the base of the Bay Bridge. "There's a 99.7 percent chance that, in the next 30 years, 99.7 percent chance that we will experience an earthquake greater than 6.7."

The MyShake app is powered by the U.S. Geological Survey.

A primitive version was actually used in 1989 to warn search and rescue teams trying to free people from the Cypress Structure.

Developed at U.C. Berkeley, MyShake can provide up to 20 seconds of warning before the ground starts to shake from a nearby quake -- enough time to take some kind of protective action.

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A breakdown of how the "My Shake" app works.

"When the earthquake begins, the ground motion sensors detect and gather information rapidly," explained Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, "and allow the system to estimate the potential size and location of the earthquake."

Those closest to the quake will receive the alert sooner than those farther away.

"So you may receive the alert before, during or after the shaking," said Richard Allen, director of the U.C. Berkeley Seismology Laboratory. "However, when you get an alert or when you feel shaking, the reaction is the same. You drop, cover and hold on."

While local and state officials urge everyone to download the app for themselves and family members, they also say it should be considered just part of a larger emergency plan.

"The price of admission to live here is preparation," said Newsom.

See more stories, photos and videos on earthquakes and the Loma Prieta anniversary.

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