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Mobile Quake Warnings

I've often joked with folks on the East Coast that, as a native Californian who recently transplanted to D.C., I'd rather not know when a natural disaster is heading my way. It's like the moment right before a car accident - you tense up and try to prepare yourself but there's really no way of stopping the inevitable.

Unlike the tornadoes of the Midwest and the hurricanes that form in the Atlantic, earthquakes offer very little warning. There have been some scientific breakthroughs that can offer mere seconds of advanced notice - but for the most part, when they strike, they strike. Growing up in California, you learn that sudden tremors just come with the territory.

Now, Japan mobile phone operators NTT DoCoMo and KDDI are reportedly teaming to develop a way to notify people that an earthquake is on its way via their mobile phones. The system is expected to go live within a few months and will pass along information from the Japanese meteorological agency, which can detect a quake several seconds before it hits. The companies aren't saying which sort of messaging system they'll use but have acknowledged that e-mail would possibly overwhelm the mobile networks.

In concept, it sounds like a good idea, I guess. But I have to wonder if, in the time it takes for that message to get to you, are you already shaking and ducking for cover? And even if you do get that warning of a few seconds, what do you do? Panic and brace yourself as you wait for the inevitable? If this sort of service were offered in the states, I don't think I'd sign up for it. Oddly enough, with earthquakes, I think I'd rather be caught by surprise.

By Sam Diaz  |  May 31, 2007; 11:54 AM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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