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Washington will finally be part of a West Coast earthquake early warning system — Here’s how to be part of Thursday’s ShakeAlert test

With seismic stations finally in place up and down the Pacific Northwest, Seattle and the state of Washington, along with Oregon can now join California in providing early warnings for earthquakes. The ShakeAlert system will go live here by May.

The state will mark the important step in completing a West Coast early warning network with a ShakeAlert test Thursday:

Residents in King, Pierce and Thurston counties have a chance to test out the state’s emerging ShakeAlert® Earthquake Early Warning system this Thursday by opting into a Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test.

The demonstration will be done at 11 a.m., Feb. 25. To receive the test message, you need to be physically located in King, Pierce or Thurston counties, have a WEA 2.0 or 3.0 capable device that is powered on and have OPTED IN to receive WEA test messages.

Here’s how to be part of the big test:

For Apple iPhones, you will need to Dial *5005*25371# and tap the call button. You’ll get an alert that says, “Test Alerts Enabled.” For newer Android devices, opting into WEA test messages may vary. It’s recommended you use the search function in the Settings app to find Emergency Alerts. You can find some instructional videos and more details at

February 28th is the 20th anniversary of the M 6.8 Nisqually earthquake. “Had the Earthquake Early Warning system been in place at the time, models show those in Seattle on Feb. 28, 2001 may have received about a 10-second warning before shaking arrived at their location,” the announcement of Thursday’s test reads. “This doesn’t sound like much time, but it’s more than enough warning to take protective actions such as drop, cover and hold on.”

CHS reported in August 2019 on the West Coast’s need and slow start on an early warning system and key federal funding secured for the installation of hundreds of seismic sensors. That summer was also the last time an earthquake made the CHS headlines. That July, a 4.6 magnitude earthquake rumbled from near Monroe early on a Friday morning, shaking buildings to the southwest around Seattle while most of Capitol Hill slept through the ride.

While Seattle is still largely unprepared for the “big one,” the city does know more about how much it would cost to retrofit its thousands of unreinforced masonry buildings. A new plan, meanwhile, will test a solar microgrid system at Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center that is designed to give the facility greater resiliency in the event of natural disasters and the Hill’s Lowell Elementary School received a $260,000 seismic retrofit.

Since 2001’s Nisqually quake, many buildings have been reinforced like the Piston and Ring preservation-friendly development. Here’s a look at how Capitol Hill’s greatest old buildings stand up, with elegance, to earthquakes.

In recent years, Seattle officials have shifted advice for city dwellers for being prepared for the next big quake from having enough supplies for three days to “a more realistic” seven to ten days. Kits should include one gallon of water per person per day, food, a light source, and a first aid kit.

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