There are some “You had one job” jokes being made at the expense of the MyShake earthquake notification app, as today’s scheduled 10:19 a.m. test alert instead blared out a 3:19 a.m. alert to potentially more than a million people.
Today is of course the Great Shakeout earthquake drill day, where schools, businesses, government institutions, and more around the world conduct simultaneous earthquake preparedness drills at 10:19 a.m. local time. BART, for instance, did their earthquake protocol with trains, and the SF Department of Emergency Management made their obligatory preparedness reminders.
But one of the most well-known Great Shakeout drill activities was a great screwup. NBC Bay Area reports that the MyShake earthquake alert app, whose test alert was scheduled for 10:19 a.m., actually went off at 3:19 a.m. Thursday morning. The unwelcome, late-night alert went to “potentially millions of people,” according to that station.
The test alert was sent at 3:19 AM Pacific Time due to a configuration glitch. We apologize to all of our users and will ensure that this will not occur in the 2024 ShakeOut Drill. The capability of MyShake to deliver realtime alerts for real earthquakes is not affected.— MyShake (@MyShakeApp) October 19, 2023
“You might have gotten a test alert from the @MyShakeApp early today,” the US Geological Service ShakeAlert Twitter account rather embarrassingly admitted in a 4 a.m. PT tweet. “We acknowledge that no one wants to get a test message this early and we are working with our #ShakeAlert (technical) partner to determine what happened.”
The memelords are of course letting them have it over the mistake, though it appears the US Geological Service (USGS) and the folks at MyShake have figured out what went wrong. In a subsequent tweet, the USGS said “There was likely a mixup between time zones set in the test alert system.” And as CBS News points out, 3:19 a.m. Pacific Time is 10:19 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), an international time standard for atomic clocks, so they likely set the alert for that incorrect time zone.
lol the MyShake earthquake warning app was supposed to have a test tomorrow at 10:19am pacific but someone fucked up and scheduled it for 10:19am UTC so a whole bunch of people’s phones just screamed THIS IS A TEST at 3am 😭😂 and the way I was already awake and on my phone 💀— fletch (@fletchasketch67) October 19, 2023
The MyShake app, available on both iOS and Android, is an app developed by UC Berkeley and the USGS. It issues smartphone alerts intended to arrive a few seconds before an earthquake hits, so people can run for cover. Its range covers California, Oregon, and Washington, and it has otherwise had a pretty good track record for early earthquake notifications.
The technical partner: pic.twitter.com/7U1plaY5k0— Guillaume Pierre (@DesignGuillaume) October 19, 2023
People are going to make their jokes, but none of this should reduce the importance of earthquake preparedness. Do use this day as a reminder to have your earthquake disaster kit or “go bag” ready, and brush up on what to do in case of an earthquake.
As for the MyShake app, they said Thursday morning that they will “ensure that this will not occur in the 2024 ShakeOut Drill,” and that “The capability of MyShake to deliver realtime alerts for real earthquakes is not affected.”
Image: @USGS_ShakeAlert via Twitter