Los Angeles Earthquake App That Tells Residents to Brace for Quake Will Be Revealed Thursday

A new mobile app in Los Angeles will allow residents to feel a vibration of their phones, or hear a tone, to alert them of an earthquake that's about to happen where they're sitting, standing or laying.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and city officials on Thursday will unveil their new early-warning app — in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey's earthquake early warning system — to help alert Southern Californians to take shelter in case nature strikes once again in an area prone to the next big quake.

The ShakeAlertLA app was published online in secrecy on New Year's Eve, and word spread quickly on New Year's Day and leading up to Thursday's launch. As of Wednesday night, the app wasn't available yet through Apple or Android devices. But the city reassures the test runs will give its citizens vital information.

"ShakeAlertLA sends you information when a 5.0 or greater earthquake happens in Los Angeles County, often before you feel shaking," the app says, according to this Los Angeles Times report.

According to the mayor's office, the app is supposed to alert residents in a time frame of 5 to 10 seconds when shaking should happen in their vicinity.

No other app found on iPhone or Android devices gives information of pending quake shakes, but rather global information of earthquakes that have already happened.

Thursday's announcement will also show the ShakeAlertLA app will also be available in Spanish, and that it was designed under contract with AT&T.

The app has been a work in progress, and Garcetti said in October that he hoped it would launch by the end of 2018.

"By advancing earthquake early warning technology, we are making Los Angeles stronger, making Angelenos safer," Garcetti said at the time. "And it'll help save lives, most important, by giving people those precious seconds to stop elevators, to pull to the side of the road, to drop, cover and hold on.

"All that will not happen the first day we launch," Garcetti said. "But together, with the private sector, we will build the software and the hardware that will allow us to be able to anticipate and react to an earthquake before we even feel it here."

Early Warning Labs, based in Santa Monica, said it hopes to release a QuakeAlert beta version to 100,000 nearby test users soon. At least 90,000 have signed up to be placed on a waiting list for the test app that will also send push notifications.

The company will test the app on a rolling basis and not try to test the greater L.A. area all at once, the company said.

Though it's designed as protection, residents are warned to not expect perfection — at least not at first. Similar products have launched in Japan and Mexico, and those have come with false alarms, premature warnings and no accuracy as to the epicenter of earthquakes.

The system is designed to signal for trains to slow down during such events. In Japan, the system most likely prevented the derailment of high-speed trains during a 9.1 magnitude quake in 2011 when warning aired about 90 seconds before the heaviest Tokyo quakes hit.

The Trump administration signed off on federal funding for the system in the 2018 budget, allowing $22.9 million for the warning system, more than double from the previous year allotment of $10.2 million.