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Monday, August 8, 2022

Cell phones will alert Costa Ricans seconds before an earthquake strikes

The Vulcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (Ovsicori) announced that Costa Rica will have an Earthquake Early Warning System (SATT). The institution is already testing the implementation of this early warning system for the arrival of secondary waves.

The system would work by providing a warning thirty to forty seconds before the waves of an earthquake of more than 5.5 reach the Central Valley. The alerts would arrive with a distinctive sound and a message on cell phones or TV screens. This will allow people to get to safety in time.

Such alerts have already been implemented in highly seismic countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, and the west coast of the United States.

Marino Protti Quesada, director of Ovsicori, stated that the connections between the devices have already been tested.

“It is working quite well. It is a simultaneous project throughout the Isthmus and is more developed in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Each nation must choose the mechanism to deliver the alerts,” he said.

In coordination with Channel 13 of the National Radio and Television System (Sinart), the seismic alert tests broadcast to digital television have also worked out.

Additionally, there will be a preparation process for the public since a signal cannot be sent if the population is not sensitized to receive it. Without adequate training, an alert could generate panic and chaos.

“Rehearsals should be held so that when the alert comes, people will know what to do,” Marino Protti said.

Furthermore, Ovsicori is focused on perfecting the technological platform to reduce false alarms. While the system is not infallible and may generate false alerts, it is expected that these will be kept to a minimum.

“People must be tolerant of technological failures because it is a susceptible service. It will be available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” he explained.

An effort will be made to calibrate the mechanism so only an earthquake greater than 5.5 will activate it. Currently, as the service is in a trial period for several Ovsicori people, it is activated for mild earthquakes.

The early warning system works for those who live 50 to 150 kilometers from the epicenter.

According to Lidier Esquivel, head of the CNE’s Risk Analysis Unit, although the early alert plan has been under design for some time, it is estimated that it will take at least a year and a half to implement it.

“The limited technology available a decade ago made it impossible to visualize a worthwhile notice. However, with the development of smartphones and the arrival of digital television, an interesting opportunity opened up,” Esquivel explained.

Coordination with Ovsicori, Sinart, and the Ministry of Science and Technology is expected to be completed this year. Subsequently, the campaign to instruct the population will begin.

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