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New Zealand Adopts New Earthquake Detection System

New Zealand along with Greece have become the first countries to get a technology that turns smartphones into a network of earthquake detectors that delivers automated early warnings. The tech developer said that New Zealand and Greece are two countries that are prone to earthquakes but lack an early warning system.

The Earthquake Alerts System uses the sensors in phones to detect quakes. The free system is enabled on every phone unless a user opts out. If there is a possible quake, then near-instant alerts are sent to all phone users in the immediate area. All users will receive the alerts unless they opt-out in device settings. Quake information will also be available to all comers who search for “Earthquake near me.”

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 an 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, the tech developer stated.

The tech company launched the Earthquake Alerts System in August 2020, in partnership with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and powered by ShakeAlert (developed by the USCS), which made alerts available for users in California. This feature recently expanded to users in Oregon and will be rolling out in Washington soon.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s GNS Science, Te Pū Ao, the country’s leading provider of Earth, geoscience and isotope research and consultancy services, said that any innovation that could build New Zealand’s resilience to earthquakes is welcome, and the new tech would complement their existing systems.

GNS Science sends out earthquake warnings from the National Emergency Management Agency (Civil Defence), which can push text messages to people in at-risk areas. Through its website and app, the system also offers crowdsourced “Felt” reports, displaying where people experienced a shudder around the country. GNS Science’s National Geohazards Monitoring Centre monitors all four geohazard perils, earthquake, tsunami, landslide and volcano, around the clock.

The country’s quake monitoring systems are also supported by the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE) which made a significant impact on attitudes and practices for earthquake engineering through study projects, seminars, conferences, and publication.

The Society provides a forum for technical debate, promotes reconnaissance of local and overseas earthquakes, is involved in the evolution of relevant legislation and regulations, and contributes to planning for response to, and recovery from, earthquakes.

The objects of the Society shall be to:

  1. a) Foster the advancement of the science and practice of earthquake engineering
  2. b) Retain a close liaison with the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand Incorporated by being a Collaborating Technical Society of the Institution and
  3. c) Further the objects of the International Association for Earthquake Engineering as applicable to New Zealand, to promote international cooperation among scientists, engineers and other professionals in the broad field of earthquake engineering through the interchange of knowledge, ideas, results of research and practical experience.

The Society is established to do all such things as are conducive or incidental to attaining the aforesaid objects or any of them. Membership of the Society shall comprise professional engineers, scientists and others having an interest in earthquake phenomena or the effects of earthquakes.

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