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Public agencies and universities in the earthquake-prone West Coast have announced the rollout of the nation’s first early alert for earthquakes.

“Shake Alert” can warn users when an earthquake has been detected in the area, potentially giving them valuable time to get to safety before the shaking reaches them.

The potential for hurricanes and tornadoes can be predicted minutes, hours, and even days ahead of time through the study of weather patterns. Earthquakes cannot be predicted, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Richard Allen is the Director of the University of California Berkeley Seismology Laboratory. He referred to the North Ridge and devastating Loma Prieta earthquakes, where 50 percent of injuries were a result of people falling or objects falling on them.

“So, by getting a few seconds of warning we can halve the number of injuries in an earthquake,” Allen told ABC10.

Shake Alert will first be used by schools, hospitals, transportation, and utility organizations in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.

The system could one day give officials the warning needed to prevent a train from derailing or a gas line from breaking, Allen said. He would like Shake Alert to one day be able to reach everyone on the West Coast, but says the technology isn’t there yet.

However, he has hopes that it could be developed within the next year if the tech industry gets involved.

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