India’s first earthquake early warning system, on the lines of those in Japan, Mexico and the US, will be launched in Uttarakhand on Wednesday. When an earthquake hits, an alert will go out on phones in areas where seismic waves are expected to reach, giving people enough time to seek out safe spaces.
Earthquake early warning systems track quakes in realtime. Even the slowest seismic waves travel at a speed of over 11,000 kmph, which means those in areas away from the epicentre have seconds to respond. An early warning system gets an alert out in those seconds. The one in Uttarakhand will do the same, based on seismic data from 200 sensors across the Main Central Thrust zone (a major geological fault in the Himalayas).
“The sensors will relay signals in real time to the control unit at IIT-Roorkee. There, an algorithm will analyse the signals (how far the waves are expected to travel, which areas are likely to be hit, and so on),” said Piyoosh Rautela, executive director of the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority, which, along with IIT-Roorkee, has developed the Uttarakhand Bhookamp Alert app. “An alert will be generated and sent out on the app if the quake is of a 5.5 magnitude or more.”
The app will notify people of the magnitude and origin of the quake, while counting down how much time one has.