Mexico Plans Earthquake Alerts Via Twitter, Facebook and Texting

By Kenna McHugh Comment

An announcement came from the Mayor of Mexico City that the government plans to send earthquake alerts via text message and through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Mayor Marcelo Ebrard says he hopes to have the social media alert system working by September 19, 2011. The date is significant to the anniversary of the 8.1 magnitude earthquake in 1985 that killed as many as 10,000 people. Ebrard said last week that his administration is talking to numerous service providers to put the new alert system in place.

Mexico City presently has an early warning system that uses sirens to alert city residents about quakes that happen hundreds of miles away on Pacific coast fault lines. Some citizens complain the alarms in their neighborhoods can’t be heard or don’t go off.

Social media is an excellent means to warn people of earthquakes. But what about predicting them, too? Then, people can be alerted via Twitter, Facebook or text message of the possible earthquake before it happens.

Scientists can make general guesses when earthquakes might occur in a certain area, by looking at the history of earthquakes in the region while detecting where pressure is building along fault lines.

Perhaps, a more reliable detection is the common toad (Bufo bufo), which can detect seismic activity days in advance of a quake. In L’Aquila, Italy, 96 percent of male toads in a population abandoned their breeding site five days before an earthquake that struck in 2010. Researchers aren’t quite sure how the toads do this, but it’s believed that they can detect subtle signs, such as the release of gases and charged particles, that may happen before a quake – if only toads could tweet, share or text at best.