Approximately 143 million people in the United States live in areas of significant earthquake hazard, with one-third of the earthquake risk concentrated in California, Oregon, and Washington. The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that average annualized losses from earthquakes nationwide is ~$11.5 billion (2023). In the next 30 years, California is very likely (99.7% chance) to have a M6.7+ earthquake, and the Pacific Northwest has a smaller (10%) chance for a M8-9 earthquake. Earthquakes of these sizes may cause considerable loss of life and property damage and earthquake early warning could help people respond to these earthquakes.
The goal of earthquake early warning (EEW) is to provide alerts to people and automated systems to prompt protective actions before an area experiences shaking. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) manages the ShakeAlert® EEW System for the West Coast of the United States. ShakeAlert is a network of seismic sensors, high-speed computers, rapid communication pathways, geophysical data, and specialized software that work together to develop ShakeAlert-powered alerts. However, for ShakeAlert to be successful, operators must have a deep understanding of how various publics interact via this System. Here we demonstrate the successes of the ShakeAlert communication, education, outreach, and technical engagement program so far, with a look towards the future. Learn more about the ShakeAlert System at: ShakeAlert.org and follow us on X: @USGS_ShakeAlert.
Dr. Robert de Groot is a physical scientist with the USGS Earthquake Science Center and is a lead with ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System operations team. His job includes recruiting technical partners who use ShakeAlert system data to deliver alerts to people and to trigger automated actions like slowing trains. Robert works with over thirty social scientists from around the world to improve how people interact with the ShakeAlert system with the goal to improve human safety. Dr. de Groot holds an AB from Occidental College, an MA from Northern Arizona University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.