(TNS) — More than 500,000 people have downloaded Los Angeles County’s new ShakeAlertLA app to warn them of impending earthquakes.
So when the two strongest earthquakes in almost two decades hit Southern California this month, those residents were surprised by what they saw on their smartphones: nothing.
Officials were quick to explain to outraged app users that the shaking in the county wasn’t strong enough to trigger an alert.
But that rationale hasn’t mollified the public.
And the program’s inauspicious start has officials grappling with an existential question that quake-prone countries such as Japan and Mexico have faced before: Is it better to issue too many earthquake warning alerts or not enough?
“We’ve long treated citizens as people who need to be protected, rather than people we need to empower,” said David Eisenman, the lead scientist on the Los Angeles County Community Disaster Resilience Project. “More information is always the way we need to go. It’s undeniable.”