SALEM, Ore. (AP) — People in Oregon will be better prepared for earthquakes — particularly important in the Pacific Northwest because experts say “the big one” is coming — as an early warning system launched Thursday, the 10th anniversary of a devastating quake and tsunami in Japan.

California already has the system, while Washington state will join in May to complete coverage of the West Coast. The ShakeAlert system operated by the U.S. Geological Survey uses seismographic sensors to detect significant earthquakes quickly so alerts reach smartphones and people can seek cover before the shaking starts.

“It’s very important that (the three states) are all partners in ShakeAlert, because earthquakes don’t respect geographic boundaries, and we have huge population centers all across the West Coast where earthquake risk is the highest in the contiguous U.S.,” said Gabriel Lotto, ShakeAlert user engagement facilitator for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network.

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