How the Oakland ShakeAlert will work

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- An Amber Alert-style earthquake warning system will be tested in Oakland. The test will target an area near Lake Merritt.

Studies show it could give people at least five seconds of advanced warning. That could be enough time for people to find protection, slow down public transit, and even pause surgeries at hospitals.

Had there been a way to warn the public of the Loma Prieta Earthquake 10, maybe 20 seconds before it hit, how many lives would have been saved?

On Wednesday, Oakland will be the epicenter for a very important earthquake alert test. At around 11 AM a portion of the city will be notified via cell phone, pretty much like an AMBER alert.

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The U.S. Geological Survey says the technology is finally here and ready to be tested.

"Just think of it as getting information out there at the speed of light basically," explained Robert de Groot of the USGS.

In the case of an earthquake, there are more than 1,600 seismic stations sending data to the US Geological Survey, which then alerts the California Office of Emergency Services which in turn will send warnings by push notifications to your cell phone.

That message will probably look and sound like an Amber Alert. Tomorrow's test will target approximately 60 square blocks east of Lake Merritt.

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"But the part that we really want to know is how quickly will it be delivered once the USGS hands it to the delivery mechanisms," said de Groot.
For that, people who get the alert tomorrow are being asked to record the exact time at which the alert first arrived on their phone.

The results from the test in Oakland will help the USGS eventually deliver this technology statewide.

And in this case, size matters.

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"When it comes to the size we're focusing on very large earthquakes and have set out thresholds at this point at alerting at a magnitude 5," said Ryan Arba from the California Office of Emergency Services.

Oakland was selected because it's a dense area on the Hayward fault.

People are being asked to complete an online survey on the test.
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