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Earthquake warning app ShakeAlertLA being offered in Los Angeles County

Los Angeles has released an earthquake warning 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 Wednesday that ShakeAlertLA is available for download on Android and Apple phones.

Based on a warning system developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, the app will send an alert 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.

"Right now the only way you know an earthquake is happening is if you feel the shaking," Robert Degroot, of the U.S. Geological Survey, told CBS Los Angeles.

The warning, he said, would mean "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. 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."

It's "the first one out of the gate," Degroot added, "and so we're very enthusiastic about what might happen. We're going to learn a lot from this."

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