An effort to give Oregonians and those in other West Coast states a few precious seconds of warning after a major earthquake strikes, but before the shaking is felt, will be rolled out Thursday. 

The ShakeAlert system, already implemented in California since October 2019, uses a network of sensors that detect the start of a major earthquake, calculate the magnitude and location of the quake, and then send the information to distributors that blast the information to cell phones and online. 

The system is expected to roll out to Washington in May. 

“This amazing technology could provide valuable seconds or tens of seconds on the front of an earthquake, not only mitigating lives lost by giving people a chance to seek shelter but also helping to drive a more efficient response,” said Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. “The ability for first responders to take protective actions for themselves and their equipment means more resources to help Oregonians once the shaking stops.”

Those few seconds are enough to give time for critical infrastructure -— power plants, water filtration systems, among others — to trigger automatic water valve shutoffs, start backup generators, and more. 

The system is powered by the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management provided the following information on ensuring your mobile device is able to receive alerts: 

Apple iPhones:

-- Tap “Settings" > “Notifications"

-- Scroll to the bottom of the screen.

-- Under “Government Alerts" tap “Emergency Alerts" and “Public Safety Alerts" to turn them on or off.

-- If emergency alerts are turned on, the circle will be on the right-hand side of the switch. No further action is needed.

-- If emergency alerts are turned off, the circle will be on the left-hand side of the switch. You will need to tap the switch to put it in the “on" position.

Please see a video demonstrating this on an iPhone

Android Phones (the exact location of the options to turn on Emergency Alerts may vary):

-- We recommend that you use the search function in “Settings" to find “Emergency Alerts" or “public safety messages."

-- If you can't find “Emergency Alerts" by searching “settings" it may be within your Messaging app, instead.

-- Make sure all alerts are turned on (i.e. “Extreme threats", “Severe threats", and “Public safety messages"). If alerts are turned on, the circle will be on the right-hand side of the switch. No further action is needed.

-- If alerts are turned off, the circle will be on the left-hand side of the switch. You will need to tap the switch to put it in the “on" position

-- Please refer to your mobile phone carrier and/or mobile phone manufacturer's website for additional information.

-- In 2020, Google released an earthquake alert feature that is powered by ShakeAlert. This service is only available on wireless devices using the Android operating system.

More information on dealing with an earthquake can be found on the OEM website.