On March 11 in Oregon, ShakeAlert powered alert delivery to the public via Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), apps, and other technologies will begin. This important step allows ShakeAlert to reach the public so they can take protective actions to mitigate injuries and casualties, and infrastructure damage, before the shaking arrives at their location.
The USGS ShakeAlert® Earthquake Early Warning System uses science and technology to detect significant earthquakes quickly so that alerts can reach people before shaking arrives.
ShakeAlert does not predict when or where an earthquake will occur or how long it will last. It detects earthquakes that have already begun, offering seconds of advance warning that allow people and systems to take actions to protect life and property from destructive shaking.
ShakeAlert infrastructure is already in place along most of the West Coast, and is operational for automatic-action systems such as water utility valve shutoffs and starting back-up generators. It can also prevent cascading failures in the aftermath of an event. For example, isolating utilities before shaking starts can reduce the number of fire initiations.
How ShakeAlert works
A network of seismic sensors across California, Oregon and Washington are constantly measuring ground motion. They send this ground motion data to a USGS-managed ShakeAlert processing center in Pasadena, CA; Menlo Park, CA; or Seattle, WA. When an earthquake occurs, and more and more sensors detect this ground motion, fast-working algorithms at the processing centers determine that an earthquake is occurring and rapidly estimate the location of the rupturing fault, the magnitude – or strength – of the earthquake, and the estimated shaking intensities across the affected area. For a ShakeAlert Message to be issued by the USGS, at least four seismic sensors need to detect the same ground motion.
Oregonians will be alerted via Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) on compatible cell phones and other mobile devices through text-like messages, and through apps as they become available.
One mobile app is currently available in Oregon is QuakeAlertUSA that uses data provided by USGS and ShakeAlert to send a text message to your mobile device.
In 2020, Google released an earthquake alert feature that is powered by ShakeAlert. This service is only available on wireless devices using the Android operating system.
Earthquakes pose a national challenge because more than 143 million Americans live in areas of significant seismic risk across 39 states. Most of our Nation’s earthquake risk is concentrated on the West Coast of the United States. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has estimated the average annualized loss from earthquakes, nationwide, to be $6.1 billion, with 73% of that figure ($4.5 billion) coming from Washington, Oregon, and California, and 61% ($3.7 billion) from California alone. In the next 30 years, California has a 99.7% chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake and the Pacific Northwest has a 10% chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 megathrust earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone.
- What is ShakeAlert? 5 min video
- ShakeAlert: An Earthquake Early Warning System for the West Coast of the United States
- Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN)
- Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS)
- ShakeAlert Messaging Toolkit
- The Toolkit augments existing earthquake preparedness efforts, offers consistent information about ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning system technology, and promotes protective actions among people in West Coast states.
- The toolkit is available in English, Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, and Vietnamese
- Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA)
- Statewide Alert system link – OR-Alert
- Learn more about Technical Partnerships
- Automating ShakeAlert to mitigate earthquake damage
- Great Oregon ShakeOut
- Individual Preparedness
- Business Preparedness
- Earthquake Country
- Ready.gov Earthquake Preparedness