An early warning for earthquakes? There's an app for that.

California is experimenting with a new system to help warn residents.

ByLeah La Rosa
October 17, 2019, 1:12 PM

Earthquakes have proven extremely hard to predict, but a new warning system in California may still help save lives the next time a big one strikes.

The Governor's Office of Emergency Services said on Wednesday, the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated the Bay Area, that it's rolling out a Shake Alert system, which will deliver warnings through an app and through the same system used for Amber Alerts.

Residents will have between three and 10 seconds of lead time, which doesn't sound like much, but it's enough time for a doctor to remove a scalpel during surgery or to duck under a doorway.

"Think about it: We have a warning for hurricanes, tornadoes, other situations like cold-weather storms," Ray Riordan, the emergency management director for the San Jose office of Emergency Management, told ABC San Francisco station KGO. "Now we have a warning system for an earthquake."

PHOTO: A person looks at an earthquake warning application on their phone in Los Angeles, Jan. 3, 2019.
A person looks at an earthquake warning application on their phone in Los Angeles, Jan. 3, 2019.
Richard Vogel/AP, FILE

Brian Ferguson, deputy director for crisis communication and public affairs at the Office of Emergency Services, told The Associated Press "we're satisfied with the performance and the testing" of the app.

"We think we're at a place where it's not perfect, but we can keep people safe, and that's our ultimate threshold," he added.

The earthquake app, developed at the University of California, Berkeley is available for both iOS and Android platforms.

Richard Allen, director of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, told the AP that "alerts will only go to people that are going to feel shaking."

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