Just a Test: Earthquake Alert Sent to Phones in San Diego on Thursday

On Thursday, June 27 at 11 a.m. the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services will send a test signal.

Did you get that alert on your phone Thursday? Don't be alarmed. It was only a test of California's newest earthquake emergency system. 

Millions of mobile phones in San Diego County received a ShakeAlert at 11 a.m. Thursday as part of a test of the California Early Warning Program. 

The alert signaled a loud tone and a text message that read "Emergency Alert:  TEST of the CA Earthquake Warning System."

The alert was received by all up-to-date mobile phones in San Diego County, even those registered to non-residents, said Rachel Sierer Wooden with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

"It’s going to allow us to reach out and let people know of shaking of an earthquake so that they can take protective action such as dropping, covering, holding on, to try to minimize damage and injury," Sierer Wooden said. 

She explained that there is a chip in all newer model phones that allows them to receive alerts from emergency personnel. 

The Early Warning Program, a partnership between the state, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and university partners, utilizes the latest earthquake detection tools to determine when there is an emergency.

Under the proposed system, seismic waves alert officials to the earthquake and once the maximum expected shaking is calculated, officials will be able to send an alert before the damaging waves arrive.

"There are 45 seismic sensors in San Diego County alone," said Holly Porter of the San Diego County Emergency Services Office. "Those sensors detect the first waves that come from an earthquake." 

The hope is that the few seconds it provides is enough time to scramble for protection, slow trains, halt industrial processes, trigger back-up power generators and pause surgeries at hospitals.

"With the advanced notice, it allows us to get people to a place where they know what’s happening and know what to expect," Sierer Wooden said. 

There will be no action needed and no danger for residents with this test, officials said.

But Sierer Wooden said the emergency alert is just the first step. Residents should know what to do after an alert is received, like having a meeting place for your family and determine how to contact each other. 

She recommends families have an emergency kit, food, water, medications, copies of important documents in a separate bag that can be grabbed immediately.

The test was the largest the Governor's Office has sent so far. The alert was last tested in Oakland, California.

ShakeAlert has been in development since 2006 and uses 400 ground motion sensors to gather the data.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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