Get Instant Earthquake Alerts on your Smart Phone

April 21, 2016

Earthquakes happen about 20,000 times per year in the United States alone - and not just in California. Earthquake damage can occur in at least 42 states. While the vast majority of these tremors do little or no damage, the few that do can be devastating: Earthquakes caused about $313 million in damage in 2014 - and $54 billion in damage in 2011, according to information from the Insurance Information Institute.

Earthquake Alert!
Earthquake Alert, available on the Android, is a popular and relatively compact app that takes up less than one megabyte of storage space. So it's not going to crowd out your music library.

When you launch the app, you'll see a news feed in 'ad banner' format. You'll also see a tab that shows all the latest seismic activity that meets the criteria parameters you set (i.e., strength/magnitude, distance, time, etc.). Another tab displays a map with all the recent seismic activity prominently displayed. Smaller quakes are highlighted in green, while more powerful activity is marked in red.

Earthquake Alert also makes it easy for you to forward the information via several messaging apps. Like other recent earthquake-focused applications, there's also an easy way to transmit your own local observations and experience to the U.S. Geological Service.

Yurekuru Call
Available on both the iPhone and the Android, Yurekuru Call provides instant alerts and warnings of seismic activity. One interesting feature: When this app sends you an alert, it will also tell you when you can expect to feel the effects of the quake. Yurekuru Call also tells you how deep the quake's epicenter is.

This Android app, just being rolled out this year, puts a new twist on earthquake apps as we have heretofore known them: MyShake, developed by the University of California at Berkeley, actually enlists your phone as a seismic activity detector. Using technology similar to the apps that count your steps to monitor physical activity, MyShake simply repurposes that programming for earthquake detection. The idea is to create a more widespread distributed network. If you have the app running in the background, MyShake will act as a hip-pocket seismic activity detector. Any information it picks up is automatically forwarded to the U.S. Geological Service. With enough users, the information gleaned and then rapidly distributed to others on the network, the program could go a long way to saving lives in the event of a major earthquake.

For example, an earthquake devastated Kathmandu, Nepal in April of 2015, causing more than 8,000 fatalities.  But the epicenter was 50 miles away from the city. Had the network been functional and widely adopted by cell phone owners, the network would have given users a 21-second warning: Enough time for them to get out of buildings or take shelter in a safer place.

UC Berkeley expects to launch a second version of the app for the iPhone very soon.

The American Red Cross
The American Red Cross has developed a number of useful mobile applications for use in disasters, including Earthquake, and Emergency. The Red Cross apps are more all-encompassing, with features designed to help you find shelter and assistance areas, food and ice distribution points, and a messaging system to help you reunite with your loved ones. They also have an app designed to walk you through common first aid scenarios. All the Red Cross Apps are available for the iPhone or the Android.

Note: While earthquakes cause millions of dollars of damage to homeowners every year, earthquake insurance is not included in standard homeowners insurance policies. Generally, you have to purchase coverage specific to earthquakes, or you will have no protection against earthquake damage whatsoever.

If a devastating magnitude 7.5 or 8 quake struck California tomorrow, most homeowners would experience a total loss: Only about 10 percent of Californians own earthquake coverage.

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