Tech

This Is How Google Woke You Up to Tell You There Was an Earthquake

Many of us didn’t wake up because of the earthquake alone, but because of the Android earthquake alert service made by Google.
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If you’re like us, you woke up sometime before 5 a.m., just minutes before a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit Calatagan, Batangas. The earthquake could be felt throughout Batangas, Cavite, Metro Manila, and beyond. And as always, Filipinos turned to the tried and tested #lindol verification system: Twitter.

As reliable as ever, “lindol” and “earthquake” were the trending topics in the early hours of July 24, but also trending were screenshots of the alerts many netizens received just a few minutes, even seconds, before they felt the dizzying earthquake.

This alert came from Android and Google itself, and is connected to anyone with a smartphone. Unlike the NDRRMC alerts that are connected to our SIM cards, which require steady signal, the Android alert is perhaps even more efficient because it requires only your location.

How do I turn on my earthquake alert warnings?

This is not an app that you need to install. It’s already a feature in your Android phones. You just have to go to Settings > Location > Earthquake Alerts. Turn on the earthquake alerts, as well as the Emergency Location Service.  

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How does it work?

It’s actually a little ingenious. Unlike other emergency alert systems, Google’s does not wait for government data input to send out alerts, which might take a while. Instead, it gathers data on the ground and uses what it knows best: algorithms, data, and tech. When an earthquake is happening somewhere in the world, your Android phone will pick up the vibrations from its internal accelerometer. This then becomes an automatic data point for Google’s algorithm, which is designed to now detect earthquakes.

Once there are enough data points for Google to feel confident about its accuracy, it will send out earthquake warnings to people whose phone location says they are near the affected areas.

In short, your Android phones will act as a “mini-seismometer” because of its built-in accelerometer, the same tool that helps your phone auto-rotate its screen.

Google only rolled this out in the fourth quarter of 2020, and we’re already feeling its positive impact all the way over here in the Philippines. Stay safe and updated on future earthquakes by turning on your earthquake alert services in your settings now.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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