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Earthquake early-warning app to launch in Washington in May

The ShakeAlert system will send earthquake alerts via cellphones and the internet. It will launch in Oregon in March.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2019 file photo a mobile phone customer looks at an earthquake warning application on their phone in Los Angeles. Earthquake early warning alerts will become publicly available throughout California for the first time this week, potentially giving people time to protect themselves from harm, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services said Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Warnings produced by the ShakeAlert system will be pushed through two delivery systems: a cellphone app called MyShake and the same wireless notification system that issues Amber Alerts, meaning people may receive both notifications. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

The U.S. Geological Survey says the earthquake early warning system known as ShakeAlert will be capable of delivering alerts directly to wireless devices in Oregon on March 11 and to Washington state in May.

The USGS announced the target for completing the West Coast rollout on Tuesday. The ShakeAlert system warns of significant quakes and has been enabled in California since October 2019.

The system uses a network of sensors that detect the start of an earthquake and calculates magnitude, location and the expected amount of shaking. It sends the information in real-time to distributors that send out alerts to cellphones and the internet.

Washington state and Oregon were supposed to get the technology last year, but the launch was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The technology is meant to send people a warning on their mobile devices or computers. How much warning you get depends on how far away you are from where the earthquake started. 

RELATED: ShakeAlert earthquake warning app will be available to the public in Washington late next year

The phone app will use your location data from your phone to determine where you are.

In some cases, you may only get a few seconds of warning, in others a minute or more. But even a few seconds of warning could be enough to get under a table or away from windows. 

Learn more about how to prepare for an earthquake or disaster here.

Join KING 5’s Disaster Preparedness Facebook group and learn how you and your community can get ready for when disaster strikes.