This is the latest information about the ShakeAlarm® trial for residents of British Columbia, Canada. If you live in BC and have an Apple or Android smart phone, you may want to take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the next generation of seismic monitoring and emergency alerting.
If you haven't already, you can complete our trial questionnaire here. We need to know how to reach you and at least roughly where you live -- your street address is optional, but we'd like to have your postal code.
We need to know your mobile phone carrier and type, and whether or not you have high-speed internet at home. If you have "smart home" devices (such as network-connected thermostats, or security systems, or irrigation controllers for your garden), please tell us about them.
Our vision for the first release of ShakeAlarm is very simple: we want as many British Columbians as possible to receive the earliest possible warning of major seismic events. There is some very clever science and engineering behind this, and we encourage everyone to learn more about it here.
ShakeAlarm already has a number of seismic sensors deployed around the Greater Vancouver and Victoria Regional Districts. Our intention is to add many, many more, because more sensors provides better precision on both the source of an earthquake and its direction of travel. We also want to have multiple levels of redundancy in the event that a sensor can't communicate with us.
The sensors have their own built-in computers which analyze the vibration signals they measure in the ground, and make a determination about whether an earthquake is on the way. We first detect the "P" (for Pressure) wave, because it moves faster through the earth than the second "S" (Seismic) wave. Both waves are created simultaneously when an earthquake happens somewhere in the earth's crust, but the P wave arrives at our sensors first.
When we detect the P wave, we figure out its strength, velocity, and distance from origin, and can infer from those things when the S wave will arrive. That defines how much early warning you receive; it's the P wave which triggers emergency notifications to your phone.
Our goal is to enable everyone to take rapid, immediate action to reduce the risk of injury or loss of property. If you're driving, pull over. If you're in a building, move to a safe place. If your kids are at school, their response protocols will depend on the size and type of construction of the school buildings, but they'll all have plans defined up front and every teacher will know what to do.
We also want to connect important public locations, such as hospitals and fire stations, as well as major public infrastructure such as trains, tunnels, and bridges. Each type of location can do immediate, specific things to protect the public. You can read about one such example, the George Massey Tunnel, here.
The core technology for ShakeAlarm was created entirely in British Columbia and has been in development since 2009. It was originally designed for heavy industry, to detect things like ground movement for large pipelines, or tunnel risks in mines. Our move towards the general public is a big new step for us. We're not a publicity-generating marketing machine, but our technology works extremely well and is ready for use today.
Of course, we're aware of other approaches in the Earthquake Early Warning System marketplace, and we welcome each and every one of those systems into our offering. Any existing sensors which generate good-quality signals, any special installations (like our own at George Massey Tunnel) which can be folded into the network, any research activities wanting to benefit from the aggregated knowledge of all this experience are welcome to connect with us and feed their own alerts into our system for delivery to the general public.
What we need is your support. Obviously nobody wants a major earthquake to happen, but the best strategy for emergency preparedness is to take our collective heads out of the sand and put concrete plans and information in place. We have worked with the Provincial government for a very long time now and believe our solution is the best available option for Emergency Management BC, but they will do well to hear from you too. You can contact EMBC by email at Emergency.Management.Deputy.Minister@gov.bc.ca or by phone at (250) 356-9400. Please encourage them to take action with the ShakeAlarm system now, and put a Provincially-supported system in place today. There are certain things we simply can't do without government support.
In the meantime, please share your feedback and suggestions with us. You can send us an email at email@example.com, you can contact us at www.facebook.com/shakealarm, or you can send us a good old fashioned paper letter. We have a lot of plans for the ShakeAlarm platform already, but we'll inevitably have to choose which things come first, and your voices are a key part of that decision.