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Coronavirus pandemic delays rollout of ShakeAlert earthquake warning app

The ShakeAlert earthquake warning system was expected to be available to the public in October 2020, but it's now delayed until 2021 due to the pandemic.

SEATTLE — Editor's note: The above video previously aired on KING 5 in October 2019.

ShakeAlert, the warning system that alerts people to how many seconds they have before an earthquake reaches them, was expected to be available to the public this year but is now being delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic

The Washington Emergency Management Division had hoped to roll out the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning system by October of this year, but said that "no longer seems feasible because of the COVID-19 pandemic." 

ShakeAlert was developed by research universities in California, Oregon and the University of Washington, along with the U.S. Geological Survey. 

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

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.

RELATED: Stanwood Elementary first to incorporate earthquake warning system in Washington

Officials with the Washington Emergency Management Division said they have installed the ShakeAlert system into their Emergency Operations Center to help improve earthquake safety for their own agency. 

"We are really excited about this important step toward bringing earthquake early warning to the people of Washington," said Maximilian Dixon, hazards and outreach program supervisor for the Washington Emergency Management Division.

Washington's Alert & Warning Center has been a pilot user for the Earthquake Early Warning app, but now that the system has been installed building-wide it will give emergency managers a heads-up when an earthquake is about to hit, according to officials. 

Officials said having the system installed will help them test it and prepare it for the public. 

The Earthquake Early Warning system is already sending public alerts in California. 

Washington is currently working with Oregon to create a free mobile app for the Pacific Northwest called "2WeeksReady." 

"Our app 2WeeksReady will deliver ShakeAlerts, tsunami alerts and provide tools to help people get prepared for disasters. We want to make preparedness as easy as possible," Dixon said.

The 2WeeksReady app and the public rollout of ShakeAlert is expected to be in Washington in 2021, however, officials did not provide a specific date for its availability. 

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