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Earthquake Emergency alerts largely remain untriggered in New Delhi

  • Published
    11th Nov, 2023
Context:

While Google’s early earthquake warning systems alerted users where shaking was stronger, a cell broadcast tested by the government and telcos in recent months did not trigger.

Background:
  • When tremors hit Delhi and surrounding areas following the 6.4 magnitude earthquake on November 3 2023 and the 5.6 magnitude aftershock on November 6 in Nepal, the government and private early alert systems did not reach many of the people who could feel palpable tremors.

Cell Broadcast Alert System (CBAS):

  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)’s Cell Broadcast Alert System (CBAS) has been tested in recent weeks to send out mass alerts when natural disasters strike, but it did not do so.
  • Meanwhile, Google did not send out alerts in the national capital, even though tremors were felt in both instances here.

Android Earthquake Early Warning system

  • The Android Earthquake Early Warning system supplements the government’s efforts on earthquake alerts and aims to provide people with advance notice that can help them stay safe.
  • The Google says it warns users only if the shaking in their area can expect to cross a value of 3.5 on the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) Scale, a measurement of shaking during earthquakes that serves as an alternative to the Richter scale.

MMI value of 3:

  • At an MMI value of 3 (“weak” shaking), the United States Geological Service’s description of the scale says that tremors are felt “quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings,” and at 4 (“light” shaking), the tremors are felt “indoors by many, outdoors by a few”.

Case of Delhi:

  • The tremors in both cases, in New Delhi, appear to have been in the lower end of these two MMI values, meaning Google did not send alerts to everyone who felt shaking, as the intensity did not seem as risky in places like Delhi

Way Forward:

  • Paired with automated responses that can slow trains or shut off gas lines, early warning systems may help prevent some of the injuries and damage typically associated with major quakes.
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