New App Could Warn LA Before the Shaking Starts

Angelenos could get precious seconds — perhaps even tens of seconds — before shaking from a distant earthquake arrives thanks to a new early warning app.

The ShakeAlertLA app created by the City of Los Angeles,  launched earlier this month, is built on the U.S. Geological Survey’s earthquake early warning system.

The app “sends you information when a 5.0 or greater earthquake happens in Los Angeles County” often before you feel shaking.

A warning of even a few seconds can save lives, allowing utilities to turn off high-pressure fuel lines, doctors to stop surgeries, and schoolchildren to shelter under desks.

“By advancing earthquake early warning technology, we are making Los Angeles stronger, making Angelenos safer,” Mayor Eric Garcetti told reporters in October.

In its first few years of service, the system is not likely to be perfect, according to the Los Angeles Times. The LA Times reports:

As residents of Japan, Mexico and other places that already have the alerts have learned, the system comes with false alarms and missed warnings. And early warnings probably won’t be possible for users at the epicenter of a quake.

Yet the early warning systems have had tremendous support in other countries because the benefits when the systems work far outweigh the disappointments.

Early Warning Labs, which has been working with the USGS, says it hopes to release the test version of its QuakeAlert app to as many as 100,000 users across California.

If you live in Los Angeles County, you can download the app for Android and Apple smartphones.

Read more about how early earthquake warnings work at

Minnesota Public Radio, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.