How Google’s Earthquake Alerts System Works in Android Smartphones

Google's Earthquake Alerts System
Google has made the earthquake alert system available in the Philippines.

Google has launched an Earthquake Alerts System for android smartphones in the Philippines, a free feature that detects earthquakes around the world and alerts people.

The system uses accelerometers for active Android smartphones to detect seismic activities. It alerts people in two ways — via Search and directly on the Android mobile device itself.

The system provides near-instant information to Google Search. When people look up “earthquake” or “earthquake near me,” they will find relevant results, along with helpful resources on what to do after an earthquake.

Here is how it works:

  1. The Android device notification provides an early warning alert when accelerometers detect an earthquake in an area.
  2. It sends a signal to Google’s earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred.
  3. The server then takes this information from many phones to analyze if an earthquake is happening, where it is, and its corresponding magnitude.
  4. People who do not wish to receive these alerts can turn them off in device settings.

On mobile devices, the Android Earthquake Alerts System displays two types of alerts, depending on the magnitude and intensity of the earthquake:

1. “Be Aware” alerts people when earthquakes with a magnitude of 4.5 occur, or an intensity level of 3 or 4 on the MMI scale. The notification is sent along with the distance of the earthquake’s epicenter. The alert uses the phone’s current volume, vibration, and Do Not Disturb settings.

2. “Take Action” is a full-screen alert for earthquakes with a magnitude higher than 4.5, or an intensity level of 5 and above on the MMI scale. To help people prepare for potential heavy shaking, full-screen instructions are shown and the phone plays a loud sound.

“Launching the Android Earthquake Alerts System in the Philippines is part of our mission to bring helpful products and services to Filipinos. Our country, being located in the pacific ring of fire, is prone to natural calamities and this update will play an important role in disaster preparedness and risk reduction,” said Bernadette Nacario, Google Philippines Country Director.

“Our smartphones are indispensable in moments of crisis. We believe Android devices can help people be prepared and stay connected in times of need. We will continue to partner with the government, public safety officials, and leading crisis response experts to better surface relevant information in times of adversities,” Nacario added.

The Android Earthquake Alerts System was first introduced in New Zealand and Greece. It is available now in more countries including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Philippines, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

To check on your Android device if the alerts are on, simply go to Settings > Location > Advanced > Earthquake Alerts.

For more information, watch this YouTube video or read this blog.

PhiVolcs earlier released this Guide for When Strong Earthquakes Strike During Pandemic and this web tool that maps natural hazards in the Philippines.

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The Good News Pilipinas Team is a group of Filipino journalists who advocate putting more good news stories about the Philippines and Filipinos on the media.