As we know, earthquakes affect both human beings and the environment. We have to face sudden structural damage to buildings, fires, damage to highways and bridges, liquefaction, initiation of slope failure, tsunami, and, most of all, the risk to human life.
Technology plays its part in all fields of life, making man’s life easier and convenient. But technology for predicting natural disasters such as earthquakes does not yet exist. Still, we can use technology to cut down the damages caused by earthquakes. USGS says it has the equipment to predict seismic activity near a quake, so it is possible to alert the people in the area where the earthquake is expected, and they could get several seconds to prepare for the shake before the quake strikes.
In this regard, Google has launched a new system that uses the company’s Android phones to detect earthquakes and provide timely information and warning to phones that run this mobile operating system.
This Android Earthquake Alert System has already been tested in California, where more damaging earthquakes occur than any other state of the U.S.
Are Earthquakes increasing every year?
Though the number of earthquakes varies each year, in general, these variations are slight and have no dramatic increase or decrease. According to the long term records, we expect sixteen major earthquakes each year, fifteen earthquakes with a magnitude of 7 and one with a magnitude of 8 or higher.
Our records based on the past 40-50 years show that we have surpassed the average number of significant earthquakes about a dozen times in the long term.
The ANSS Comprehensive Earthquake Catalog (ComCat) contains an increasing number of earthquakes in recent years because of the more seismic instrument in the latest times that can
record more earthquakes. It is not because there are more earthquakes, but because of the presence of this technology.
Though a temporary decrease or increase in seismicity is a part of the wide variation of earthquakes, neither increase nor decrease is a positive indication as a large earthquake is imminent. The National Earthquake Information Center determines 20,000 earthquakes every year around the globe or about 55 per day. To tackle the intense situations, improvements in communications, and the increased interest in natural disasters are resulting in public awareness about earthquakes.
Effects of Earthquakes on Economy
Earthquakes are not only dangerous for the safety of human life but also for the economy as they can shatter the years’ effort in just a few seconds. It has immediate or long-run effects on the economic development of a city. These immediate effects are based on the capital, housing, and industrial plant and equipment. While the long-run effects of a severe earthquake cause downfall to established businesses and firms. It may cause firms to lower their expected returns to equipment investment and plant and workers to lower expected real wages.
The average economic damage caused by earthquakes was more than $2.1 billion, while medium damages were much less than the average, at $529 million. Earthquake damages depend on the severity and higher magnitude, so they fell into three general groupings. Damages of less than
$50 million are reported in eight cases. So they also vary each year.
Google’s Part in Developing Earthquake Alert System
Google has always played its huge part in settlement of rising issues and problems. Whether the problem is temporary or frequent, Google steps forward to sort out the issue or make it under control with its unique solutions.
As far as earthquakes are concerned, Google is ready to play its part by issuing warnings when an earthquake is imminent.
Google has recently announced that it plans to turn your Android phone into an early earthquake alert system. It has just developed a new feature or Android to send alerts to the people when an earthquake is imminent. The tech giant is about to create the world’s largest earthquake detection network by using your phone as a tiny seismometer and millions of other Android phones.
As the earthquakes are beyond the man’s control, they happen daily, with billions of people living in earthquake-prone regions. It is crucial to help people with an early warning so they could prepare for shaking. But it costs a lot to build and deploy public infrastructure to detect earthquakes and alert people about that.
So Google decides to use Android to provide timely and helpful information to the people through early earthquake alerts so they might be able to save themselves and their loved ones before the shaking arrives. A few seconds of warning can also make a huge difference.
In California, Google collaborated with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and California Governer’s Office of Emergency Services to send earthquake alerts directly to Android devices. It will first apply to California only. Android users, who have enabled device location and are near the area where an earthquake of 4.5 magnitudes or higher is imminent, will be able to receive a full-screen alert telling them to drop down and seek cover.
ShakeAlert powers these alerts, and the system works to analyze seismic data from more than 700 seismometers installed across the state of California and calculates preliminary magnitudes through which it estimates the areas that probably would feel shaking.
California has access to an app named “MyShake” since last October, which used WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) to broadcast alerts powered by ShakeAlert. Google’s new system will use the same data feed used by MyShake to distribute alerts as the earthquake early alert system of the state.
The early earthquake alert system may deliver a few seconds’ warning, but it may be enough to save the lives of so many people. Google explains it in its video on the blog:
“As soon as a tremor is detected, an alert gets sent out to your Android device, giving you precious seconds to find cover or safer ground. After the quake, the phone sends feedback to learn more about quakes, so we’re even more prepared for the next one.”
That is more than one can expect from the technology, but Google is going further for the betterment and to save as many people from the disaster of earthquakes as possible. As Google points out, the seismometer network is not universally available worldwide, so it uses the accelerometer found in the smartphones to create the world’s largest earthquake detection network.
How Android Earthquake Alert System Works?
According to the latest Google announcement, no matter where you live in the world, your phone can be part of the Android Earthquake Alert System. Google will use your phone as a mini seismometer, along with millions of other Android phones, to form the world’s largest earthquake detection network.
It is because installing a ground network of seismometers is costly and can not be deployed in all impacted areas around the world. So the tech giant decided to use the reach of Android’s platform for earthquake detection.
An Android phone can become a “mini seismometer” because of its built-in tiny accelerometers that can sense the indicating signals of when an earthquake might be happening. Android system uses the data to detect when the phone is shaking. Google states further in its blog post that:
“If the phone detects something that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server and a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then combines information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening. We’re essentially racing the speed of light (which is roughly the speed at which signals from a phone travel) against the speed of an earthquake. And lucky for us, the speed of light is much faster!”
Stogaitis said about android phones:
“They’re even sensitive enough to detect the P-wave, which is the first wave that comes out of an earthquake and is typically much less damaging than the S-wave which comes afterward.” When your device senses the signals that indicate something like an earthquake, it sends information to the earthquake detection server of Google with some estimated location information pointing where it happened. The server then collects data from other devices to verify and see if an earthquake is happening.
Google uses this technology to share a quick and accurate view of the respected area on Google Search. You will be able to find relevant results and helpful resources when you search “earthquake” or “earthquake near me.”
The search results will also provide tips from helpful resources on what to do after an earthquake. This earthquake detection, also described as the crowdsourced approach, was developed by disaster and seismology experts: Dr. RIchard Allen, Dr.Lucy Jones, and Dr. Qingkali Kong.
This fantastic and life-saving technology and the feature will roll out to more states and regions using the Android-based detection in the coming years to reach way beyond California, as stated in Google’s blog post:
“You might be wondering, “what’s next?” We’re starting with earthquake alerts in California since there’s already a great seismometer-based system in place. Over the coming year, you can expect to see the earthquake alerts coming to more states and countries using Android’s phone- based earthquake detection”.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Google worked with California and United States Geological survey to form the largest earthquake detection network into the phones that run the conventional mobile operating system. Android phones will be used to sense earthquakes. Android users living in the area near earthquakes of magnitude 4.5 or higher will receive full-screen earthquake alerts telling them to drop on the floor, seek cover under a piece of furniture and hold it until the shake lasts.
Androids phones have tiny accelerometers to sense the signals indicating earthquakes. When the phone detects something like an earthquake, it sends a message to Google’s earthquake detection server along with rough location information where the shaking happened. The server gathers the information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening and issues warnings to the people living in the impacted areas.
The number of earthquakes varies each year slightly, but there are no dramatic variations. On average, about fifteen earthquakes occur each year with a magnitude of 7 or higher. But neither decrease nor increase is a positive indication as a large earthquake is imminent so we should prepare before the disasters.
It is beyond human power to prevent natural disasters from occurring, but we can decrease their effects by building safer structures, identifying hazards, and general awareness on earthquake safety. We can not predict earthquakes, but we can adapt precautionary measures to cut down the loss and reduce realtime damages.
Earthquake prediction is not possible as neither USGS, not scientists could predict any major earthquake. Though we can not predict all the natural disasters, we can still calculate the probability of earthquakes in a specific area within a certain number of years.
Shakealert is an earthquake early warning system (EEW) sponsored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that uses sensors to detect significant earthquakes. It works so quickly that earthquake alerts can reach many people before shaking arrives. Shakealert doesn’t predict earthquakes; instead, it issues warnings for people when an earthquake begins, and that shaking is imminent in the important areas.
We should follow these safety tips for surviving an earthquake
1. Immediately drop on the ground
2. Take cover under any sturdy piece of furniture or table and hold it tightly
3. Stay away from windows, glass, and walls
4. Don’t leave the building until the shaking has stopped
5. Also, stay away from heavy fixtures and falling debris that could injure if struck.