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Utah looks to implement an earthquake warning for your phone

Posted at 2:56 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 18:48:39-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The state is exploring whether to implement an AMBER Alert-type system to warn Utahns when an earthquake might be imminent.

The Utah Geological Survey has begun a study to determine if it is feasible along the heavily populated Wasatch Fault. The system would use the state's seismograph networks and be able to provide anywhere from a few seconds to a minute's notice.

"The way it works is when we have an earthquake, there’s actually different types of waves. Some are more damaging than others. The first wave that comes is the least damaging of all," said Bill Keach, the state geologist. "So if we can detect that first wave? Then we we can calculate it, we have the right hardware and sensors and send out an immediate notice before the longer, more damaging waves."

Notices could automatically go to phones or on electronic messaging boards. Even a little heads up could help utilities shut off or transit systems stop to avoid more catastrophic damage.

Keach said the system is being used in Japan and some western states are looking at using it, too. The Utah State Legislature funded about $150,000 to determine if it's possible to implement the early warning system.

Utah was rattled by the 5.7 Magna earthquake two years ago. Keach told FOX 13 News that since then, they have recorded around 3,000 small aftershocks tied to the same faultline.

In the event of a magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquake, Utah's Division of Emergency Management has projected more than 2,000 deaths and at least $30 billion in damage from the initial quake. The Great Utah ShakeOut, a statewide earthquake preparedness drill, is scheduled for April 21.