ShakeAlert mobile earthquake warning system goes live this week

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Washington residents will have a new tool to help them stay safe when an earthquake hits Tuesday when the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system goes live.

Once launched, ShakeAlert will be able to send residents an alert on their cell phones, providing precious seconds of warning to take shelter before the tremors of an earthquake reach their location. reported KING5.

Related: The system that provides earthquake alerts will serve Washington residents from May

Washington state has the second-largest earthquake risk in the United States, as well as one of the highest tsunami risks, according to the Washington Emergency Management Division. While the system is designed to give residents time to seek shelter in the event of an earthquake, it cannot predict when an earthquake will occur.

As the ground begins to shake, the ShakeAlert system is designed to detect the earthquake near the epicenter. As the seismic waves propagate, they are picked up by seismic stations operated by the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, which provides real-time data to the ShakeAlert system.

The degree of warning you receive depends on how far you are from where the earthquake started. Cell phones will use location data to determine where you are. In some cases you will only get a few seconds of warning, in others a minute or more. But even a few seconds of warning might be enough to get under a table or away from windows.

ICYMI: New research reveals Cascadia tsunami would flood Navy piers and highways


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