How can we help?

Explore our frequently asked questions.

How good are the sensors in phones?

Some phones have better sensors than others. However, sensors continue to get more and more sensitive with newer smartphones. Our testing has shown that most modern phones in use today can record earthquakes down to magnitude 5 within 10 km of the epicenter.

How are earthquakes traditionally detected?

Traditionally, earthquakes are detected by highly specialized equipment that is installed by field engineers. These sensors can produce high quality readings and are sensitive to the biggest ruptures down to the smallest tremor. However, the equipment is often expensive to create, install, and maintain so many communities are unable to sustain a comprehensive, up to date network.

What does MyShake do with the data it collects?

MyShake uses the data provided by citizen scientists to locate moderate to large earthquakes globally and determine their magnitude. MyShake seismologists can also use this data to learn more about earthquake dynamics in areas without traditional networks. This research could lead to the development of earthquake early warning technology in these areas.

I don’t live in an earthquake prone region, should I participate in MyShake?

Yes! There are few locations in the world where earthquakes never occur. Also, by participating in this citizen science effort, your data can provide a useful baseline against which to compare data from phones in more earthquake prone regions. Your contribution is valuable.

How can you differentiate between my movements and earthquakes?

MyShake’s algorithm uses a neural network to decide which motion fits the model of an earthquake and which doesn’t. The algorithm is already good at this, and as a MyShake user you’re helping it get even better!

Watch our video on how MyShake uses artificial neural networks.

When will I get an alert?

We are a Licensed Operator for the USGS ShakeAlert® project. MyShake delivers ShakeAlert-powered alerts across California, Oregon, and Washington for magnitude 4.5 or greater quakes to users in the areas of light to severe shaking. Lessons learned from this work may enable us to expand earthquake alerts to other countries around the world. This could happen when the number of users in an area is sufficient for MyShake to create accurate alerts and that a public education and training campaign has been developed to inform users how to respond to the alerts for their location.

Do you have a tutorial I can watch on how to use the app?

What does an alert sound like?

You can hear a demonstration of the alert sound in the app. Open the Settings tab on your MyShake app and click on the 'Play the Alert Sound' button.

Will I be able to hear the alert if my phone is set to 'Do not disturb'?

Yes. MyShake now has enabled critical alerts/emergency alerts so alerts push through the 'do not disturb' or 'silent mode' phone settings.

Should I have location services set to always on for MyShake?

Ideally, yes. If you are in California, Oregon, or Washington and would like to receive earthquake early warning alerts, location services help us provide more accurate early warning alerting that is targeted to your most recent known location. You also have the option to set a default HomeBase. That way no matter where you happen to be, even if your location services are turned off, you can receive an early warning alert at your HomeBase. Globally, our citizen science research project also uses device locations to pinpoint the area on the globe where MyShake records earthquake events. For regular notifications and general app functionality, like the safety pages and submission of experience reports, location services are not required.

Do I still need to have location services turned on if I use HomeBase?

No, you can choose to turn location services ‘off’ and still receive alerts in California, Oregon, and Washington. Location services are still used to monitor for earthquakes in your area so it is important to leave location services ‘on’ to help with this effort, but it is not required in order to use HomeBase. HomeBase is there in case you need to temporarily disable location services. Keep in mind that alerts will only go to your device if either your phone location or your chosen HomeBase is in the affected area. MyShake will not be able to alert you when location services are turned off if your current location is outside of your HomeBase area and an alert is headed to your current location.

Do you store my address?

No, we only use your address on the app to make it easier for you to assign your phone to a 10km by 10km square. You can see this confirmation on the map as a teal square when you set up your HomeBase. We do not store your address on our backend.

Will the alert go to my HomeBase location or to my phone location?

The HomeBase location will always get an alert even if the phone location is available and in a different area. Most recent phone models will be able to collapse the two alerts into a single alert if both locations are in the affected area.

If I am in a different location than my HomeBase, how will I know where the earthquake actually is?

Clicking on the alert should open the app and after closing the alert card, the map should show a bullseye at the estimated location of the quake. The bullseye will be replaced with updated earthquake information as it becomes available, which is usually a few minutes after the earthquake ends.

What is the difference between Notifications and Alerts?

On MyShake, Notifications are sent when an earthquake is added to the USGS global catalog and it can take a few minutes to receive the notification. This is different from alerts. Alerts are developed from USGS ShakeAlert® Messages, which are only delivered in California, Oregon, and Washington and will automatically be sent to you if you were in the area of shaking and have location services on and/or a HomeBase location set. Alerts are not sent out for all felt events, they are designed to alert people for potentially damaging earthquakes.

What is a Plus Code?

The Plus Code is for internal testing purposes. Please ignore this setting.

How does my phone detect earthquakes?

A phone is ready to start detecting earthquakes after lying stationary for a period of time. Then, the on board artificial neural network begins classifying NEW movements as earthquake-like or non-earthquake-like.

Who can submit an Experience Report?

Anyone can submit an experience report about an earthquake. However, only users within the impact zone of an earthquake will have their reports used as citizen science data, which is shown on maps and data visualizations on an earthquake’s page. The impact zone is the estimated area where shaking might be felt from an earthquake and is based on an earthquake’s magnitude.

What does the My Data page show?

You can see how you’ve contributed to the MyShake project and look at statistics about the project on the My Data page. Don’t worry if you haven’t been near an earthquake or experienced any since downloading the app, you’re an important part of the global seismic network just by keeping MyShake on your phone!

What are Recent Earthquake Events?

Recent Earthquake Events are a custom feature of the MyShake app that let you get notifications about earthquakes you are interested in. You can get general information about earthquakes around the globe, or set a custom notification for a particular region of interest. Notifications are sent after an earthquake takes place and the information about the event is added to the USGS global catalog. That process can take a few minutes. If you do not wish to receive notifications about global events, please disable the global selection under Recent Earthquake Events. Phones in California, Oregon, and Washington will continue to receive earthquake alerts if they are in the area of shaking, even if these custom notifications are turned off.

Will I get an alert for all earthquakes that I feel?

No, the app only delivers early warning alerts from the ShakeAlert system that are estimated to be greater than M4.5. If the event is smaller than that, no alert will be forwarded even if you feel the quake. As the alerts are estimates, sometimes the final magnitude will be higher or lower than the initial estimate. This is not a system failure, but rather a natural consequence of using preliminary data to make rapid estimates of earthquake impacts.

What is IRIS and what is a nonmobile sensor?

The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology ingests, curates, and distributes geoscience data. MyShake has partnered with them to give users more information about sensors outside the MyShake network. A non mobile sensor is a high-quality scientific instrument which is installed in the ground at various locations around the world and featured in the IRIS catalog. These high quality sensors are used by researchers around the world to learn more about earthquakes.

USGS ShakeAlert® System

MyShake uses ShakeAlert information, issued by the USGS, to deliver alerts to all users in the affected areas of California, Oregon, and Washington. Alerts will only be delivered for magnitude 4.5 or greater earthquakes to users in the Modified Mercalli Intensity level 3 (light shaking) or higher areas. Alerts are not sent out for all felt events, they are designed to alert people for potentially damaging earthquakes. The USGS ShakeAlert System uses hundreds of high-quality seismic stations accross the West Coast to detect earthquakes as they happen and issue ShakeAlert Messages. However, alerts are not earthquake predictions, rather they indicate that an earthquake has begun, and shaking is imminent. Additionally, for every earthquake, regions near the epicenter may not receive a warning before the shaking arrives. Remember to drop, cover, and hold on when you get an alert or feel shaking.

To learn more about how this works, see our tutorial video.

Am I able to receive customized notifications from specific locations?

Yes, you are able to set up to 3 locations with control over the mile coverage and earthquake magnitude.

How much battery is being used in the background for this app?

The amount of battery used will vary from phone to phone. Most iPhone users will not see any performance or battery issues. Newer Android phones should be able to monitor for earthquakes, and receive notifications with no large impacts to battery usage. Older Android phones, may experience a heavier usage. For those Android users, we have provided the option of using battery saving mode. With this enabled, earthquake monitoring will only be done when the phone is plugged into power. This does severely impact contributions to the network, so only use this feature if necessary.

[Android Only] Does having Battery-Saving-Mode ON affect the quality of the app?

Yes and No. You will still receive alerts and notifications, and will be able to explore the map with Battery-Saving-Mode ON, but it does not collect seismic data unless plugged into power. This significantly impacts the contributions to the network and our ability to detect earthquakes. We recommend keeping the Battery-Saving-Mode OFF if possible.

Why are only magnitude 3.5 and above earthquakes reported on the app?

Currently, the global catalog that we pull from is not reliably complete below M3.5, and in some places not even below M4.5. Our solution was to raise the level until we can start pulling from more local catalogs to give people a better experience.

Should the app always be running in the background?

We do recommend that the app stays running in your active app tray. We have done some testing to ensure that apps will receive notifications and alerts even if the app is closed or killed and those work well after several weeks of inactivity. However, we have no information on how Android or iOS will behave if the app has been closed for months. Testing is ongoing, but we would like to err on the safe side when making recommendations.

What is MyShake doing to improve accessibility for low-vision users?

MyShake is working with our stakeholders to make improvements to the app for the low vision community. Specifically: better integration with VoiceOver. Some updates are available in the latest version. We will continue to make improvements over time, but please reach out to us if you encounter any bugs or missing labels.

Will MyShake alert me if my phone is on Do Not Disturb or silent mode?

Yes. We have enabled critical alerts on iOS and emergency alerts on Android devices. This means, you will still receive earthquake early warning alerts from MyShake while in Do Not Disturb or Silent mode. While iOS devices will bring up a pop-up message for Critical Alerts with a new install, Android does not present the same pop-up message. Once you've accepted to receive Critical Alerts on iOS devices, it will not re-ask for subsequent updates. Be sure to check your phone’s system settings to double check if Critical (iOS) and Emergency (Android) alerts are turned on.

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