LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — The city of Los Angeles Wednesday released an earthquake warning mobile app that could give L.A. County residents precious seconds to drop, cover and hold on in the event of a quake.

The city announced that ShakeAlertLA is available for download on Android and Apple phones. It can be accessed here.

“Right now, the only way you know an earthquake is happening is if you feel the shaking,” said Robert Degroot with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Based on a warning system developed by the USGS, the app will alert through a text or other electronic means when there’s a quake of magnitude 5.0 or greater in the state. Depending on where the quake hits, the app says the warning could arrive before, during or after the quake. It urges people who see the alert or feel the shaking to take precautions to avoid injury.

“Having that extra time to maybe protect yourself a little bit more. To do something a little bit different or if you are in a particularly precarious situation,” said Degroot. “You might be at work in a lab. You might be able to do something that could protect yourself even more rather than just having to react when the shaking begins.”

The ShakeAlert system is based on a network of in-ground sensors developed by USGS to detect seismic activity.

“ShakeAlert is NOT a prediction that an earthquake will occur. It signals that an earthquake has started and you may feel shaking. This app is meant to help provide alerts for your safety,” according to the app.

It is the nation’s first publicly available earthquake early warning mobile app, and was developed as part of a pilot program with USGS, AT&T and The Annenberg Foundation. The L.A. City Council in June approved the negotiation of a $300,000 contract with AT&T and the GRYD Foundation for the design, creation and deployment of the Early Earthquake Warning System Mobile Application.

In addition to providing quake alerts, the app also includes tips on preparing for and recovering from a quake. It also includes a listing and map of recent quakes.

Meanwhile, other earthquake warning apps are also being developed. Santa Monica-based Early Warning Labs, also in collaboration with the USGS, is working on a QuakeAlert App which uses the same technology as the the Caltech Seismological Laboratory in Pasadena. The QuakeAlert app would provide the public a warning within 60 seconds of such an earthquake. The app is in the testing phase and has not yet been released to the public.

“The mobile application right now is in a beta test with a select group of users,” Joshua Bashioum with Early Warning Labs told CBS2 back in August. “We’re hoping to get the approvals that we need to be able to roll out to some hundred-thousand people that are on the wait list, to get them on board, do some sort of capacity testing that we need to do, as far as with push notifications, and ultimately release it out to users throughout California and L.A.”

For more information on that app, click here.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.)

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