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Oakland Will Test Earthquake Warning System

Holly Quan
March 26, 2019 - 2:28 pm

Earthquake scientists will be focused on downtown Oakland on Wednesday when they launch the first public test of the early warning system.

About 40,000 people in a 60-square-block area of the city will receive the test message on their smartphones and other devices when the notice goes out between 11 a.m. and noon. 

City officials are trying to brace the public for the experiment and avoid a mass misunderstanding. 

The warning, known as Shake Alert, works on the same system that sends AMBER alerts about missing or endangered people.

This one could eventually be developed to give people enough advanced noticed of an impending quake to shut off pipelines, get off freeways or at least find a safe place to avoid falling objects. 

"Oakland is obviously on the Hayward fault, so we're definitely at risk of a huge earthquake," said Oakland city spokeswoman Karen Boyd, who pointed out the area is densely populated and includes major highways and public transportation networks. "It's a good test area for the Bay Area."

Related: East Bay Jolted By Quakes 2 Days In A Row

The area targeted by the sensors will be west of Lake Merritt, including the city center, the Clorox building and University of California headquarters. It will extend into the Uptown neighborhood where Pandora has its office tower. 

Because the system hasn't been perfected, it's possible that the message will appear on phones in other areas, Boyd said. 

"The reason we want people to know that this is happening, is it could bleed over outside of that designated area," said Boyd. 

Scientists hope that people will provide their feedback on how well the test worked. They want to know exactly what time the notice reaches recipients. To provide an accurate time, synchronize your phone's clock to the time displayed on www.time.i-s.