In a natural disaster or emergency, every second counts. For example, when it comes to earthquakes, studies show that more than 50% of injuries can be prevented if users receive an early warning, and have the critical seconds needed to get to safety. That's why last year, we launched the Android Earthquake Alerts System, which uses sensors in Android smartphones to detect earthquakes around the world. The free system provides near-instant information to Google Search about local seismic events when you search “Earthquake near me.”
Today we’re announcing an expansion of the Android Earthquake Alerts System that uses both the detection and alerts capabilities, bringing these alerts to Android users in countries that don’t have early warning alert systems. We’re introducing the Android Earthquake Alerts System in Greece and New Zealand, where Android users will receive automatic early warning alerts when there is an earthquake in their area. Users who do not wish to receive these alerts can turn this off in device settings.
We launched alerting in August 2020, in partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and powered by ShakeAlert®, which made alerts available for Android users in California. This feature recently expanded to users in Oregon and will be rolling out in Washington this May.
Early warning alerts in New Zealand and Greece work by using the accelerometers built into most Android smartphones to detect seismic waves that indicate an earthquake might be happening. If the phone detects shaking that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then takes this information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening, where it is and what its magnitude is.
New Zealand and Greece will be the first countries to take advantage of both the detection and alert capabilities of the Android Earthquake Alerts System. Through this system, we hope to provide people with the advance notice they need to stay safe.