According to the findings of a media inquiry, Google’s earthquake warning system did not reach a significant number of Turkish people prior to the catastrophic quake that occurred in February.
Users of Google’s alert system may receive a warning on their mobile devices up to one minute before an earthquake occurs, according to the company.
It asserts that its warning was sent out to millions of people before the initial and most severe earthquake.
However, members of the media travelled to three communities at the epicentre of the earthquake and spoke with hundreds of locals, but they were unable to locate anyone who had been given a warning.
The system is compatible with Android phones and, more generally speaking, any other smartphone outside Apple’s iPhone. Android phones, which are typically sold at lower price points, constitute approximately 80 per cent of the market share in Turkey’s mobile phone market.
“If Google makes a promise, or makes an implicit promise, to deliver a service like earthquake early warning, then to me, it raises the stakes,” says Professor Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. “If Google makes a promise, or makes an implicit promise, to deliver a service like earthquake early warning, then it raises the stakes.”
“They have a responsibility to be able to follow through on something that is directly related to life and limb,” the sentence reads.
Micah Berman, who was in charge of product development for the system at Google, believed that it had been successful. “We are confident that this system fired and sent alerts,” he stated to the reporters.
Despite this, the corporation did not give any evidence to suggest that these notifications were read by a significant number of people.
The earthquake in February claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people.
Following the occurrence of the first large earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.8 and occurred in the early hours of the morning, a second major earthquake rocked the area about lunchtime.
The news media were only able to locate a small number of people who had been given a warning about this second earthquake.
In June of 2021, Google made an announcement on the Android Earthquake Alert System in Turkey.
Dozens of countries all over the world are currently using the system in its operational capacity. The capability of the firm’s Android service to deliver quake notifications is referred to as a “core” feature by the company.
It does this by utilizing the large network of phones that Android has. Smartphones include very small accelerometers that are able to sense when the device is being shaken.
When a large number of users’ phones shake at the same time, Google is able to localize the epicentre of an earthquake and calculate its magnitude. Google has produced an explanation video showing how everything works.
In the event that an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.5 or higher is detected, the Android system is able to issue a warning.
“This notification is unlike any other that you have most likely received on your phone in the past. It takes up the entirety of the screen on your phone, ” explains Mr. Berman.
The warning yells, “Drop, cover, and hold,” and is followed by a piercing sound.
It should also automatically override a user’s do not disturb mode so that you do not need to switch it on. This would save you time.
Mr. Berman thinks that you ought to be presented with that warning regardless of the condition of your phone.
Google asserts that the technology was able to send alerts to millions of users on February 6 without any problems.
According to Mr. Berman’s explanation, the amount of warning that consumers should have received from Google would depend on how far away they were from the earthquake. A message that is transmitted via the internet can move at a far faster rate than the waves that are transmitted through the earth when an earthquake occurs.
“Sometimes [the warning] might be a second or a fraction of a second, other times it might be 20 or 30 seconds, and still other times it might be 50 or 60 seconds,” he explains.
No one acknowledged receiving an alert from the media despite the significant reporting that took place across the earthquake zone in the hours, days, and weeks after the earthquake.
Our crew travelled to the cities of Adana, Iskenderun, and Osmaniye, which are located between 70 and 150 kilometres (43 to 93 miles) from the epicentre of the earthquake.
We talked to a significant number of folks who use Android phones.
We were unable to locate anyone who had received a warning prior to the initial, most severe earthquake. However, we were successful in locating a small number of persons who had received an alert for the second earthquake.
In Iskenderun, we talked to Alican, who had to bury his grandmother after the collapse of a nearby hospital. He claims that he had previously got the notification but that he did not do so this time.
Our reporting from the epicentre of the earthquake was given to Mr Berman from Google.
He stated that “It’s possible, given the massive impact that the first event had, that this just quietly happened in the background while users were really paying attention to lots of other things.” In the end, I believe that to be the answer that has the greatest likelihood of being correct.”
However, the individuals we talked to were convinced that no one showed up there.
Since the earthquake, Funda has been living in a makeshift tent encampment. She reports that 25 members of her family were killed in the disaster.
“We dumped people into the ground literally,” they said. She tells me that her sister-in-law and her nephew were buried holding each other’s arms.
After an earthquake, it is reasonable to anticipate that people will post on social media about whether or not they were given a warning. This has been observed rather frequently in other nations where earthquakes have taken place after Google’s algorithm went live.
“Being able to look on social media is one of the few feedback sources that we have,” Mr. Berman adds. “We have very few other options.”
He says, “I don’t have a definitive response for why we haven’t seen more reactions on social media to that particular event.” “I don’t have a resounding answer,” he continues.
The media made a request for data that could demonstrate that people had been given the notification. The only piece of evidence that Google provided was a pdf with 13 social media posts that the business had discovered where individuals were discussing a warning on that particular day.
As a result, we reached out to the individuals who had written the posts.