New app alerts LA County residents of earthquakes

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Shake Alert app.

If you live in Los Angeles, you might experience an earthquake every once in a while. Next time though, your phone could vibrate before the earth does.

Shake Alert LA is a free new app available in the Apple and Android app stores.

Download it, and if a magnitude 5.0 or greater earthquake happens in Los Angeles County, your smartphone will sound an alarm, similar to an Amber Alert, and show an emergency warning.

L.A. is the first city in the country to offer an early warning app, though other cities are expected to develop their own versions.

The goal is to give you a few extra seconds to drop, cover and hold on.

A map will show you where the epicenter is. The farther you are from the source of the earthquake, the more time you’ll have to respond.

In addition to providing quake alerts, the app also includes tips on preparing for and recovering from a quake, from creating an earthquake kit and securing furniture or other heavy objects, to shutting off gas lines.

The app also includes a listing and map of recent quakes.

The app draws on data gathered by the U.S. Geological Survey’s hundreds of seismic sensors across the state. The same data is used to slow trains during an earthquake.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and the city created the app, with the USGS and other partners. The app is already available to download, though Garcetti will officially unveil the app during a City Hall news conference Thursday. 

Countries including Japan and Mexico already have such systems, and they’ve been credited with saving lives, even though they occasionally send out false alerts.