ABSTRACT

The ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system aims to alert people who experience modified Mercalli intensity (MMI) IV+ shaking during an earthquake using source estimates (magnitude and location) to estimate median‐expected peak ground motions with distance, then using these ground motions to determine median‐expected MMI and thus the extent of MMI IV shaking. Because median ground motions are used, even if magnitude and location are correct, there will be people outside the alert region who experience MMI IV shaking but do not receive an alert (missed alerts). We use 91,000 “Did You Feel It?” survey responses to the July 2019 Mw 6.4 and Mw 7.1 Ridgecrest, California, earthquakes to determine which ground‐motion to intensity conversion equation (GMICE) best fits median MMI with distance. We then explore how incorporating uncertainty from the ground‐motion prediction equation and the GMICE in the alert distance calculation can produce more accurate MMI IV alert regions for a desired alerting strategy (e.g., aiming to alert 95% of people who experience MMI IV+ shaking), assuming accurate source characterization. Without incorporating ground‐motion uncertainties, we find MMI IV alert regions using median‐expected ground motions alert fewer than 20% of the population that experiences MMI IV+ shaking. In contrast, we find >94% of the people who experience MMI IV+ shaking can be included in the MMI IV alert region when two standard deviations of ground‐motion uncertainty are included in the alert distance computation. The optimal alerting strategy depends on the false alert tolerance of the community due to the trade‐off between minimizing missed and false alerts. This is especially the case for situations like the Mw 6.4 earthquake when alerting 95% of the 5 million people who experience MMI IV+ also results in alerting 14 million people who experience shaking below this level and do not need to take protective action.

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