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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the next "Big One" hits, the U.S. Geological Survey really hopes you'll pay attention to the alert on your phone.

Why it matters: The ShakeAlert system, installed along the West Coast, can provide anywhere from seconds up to a minute of warning to areas outside the epicenter that a big quake is on the way.

  • "Depending on the distance, that could be enough time to automatically slow trains, stop industrial machines, start generators, pull a surgical knife away from a patient or tell students to put the 'drop, cover and hold' drill into action," the AP reports.

Between the lines: The system didn't alert anyone this time, and that was on purpose.

  • The app "will only send out a ShakeAlert — that is, the message — if a particular area experiences a level of shaking that’s potentially damaging," Robert-Michael de Groot of the USGS told The Verge.
  • "This is why we’re saying that it worked exactly as intended because the earthquake was out in Ridgecrest, which is about 150 miles or so from Los Angeles."
  • In LA, "ShakeAlerts only get sent to people when there’s potentially damaging shaking — where things get broken or people can get hurt."
  • "If people are getting ShakeAlerts every single time there’s an earthquake, people are going to begin to ignore them."

The bottom line: A warning only works if people heed it, and hopefully that moment doesn't come for a very long time.

Go deeper ... In photos: California's historic earthquakes, less than two days apart

Go deeper

New report hits DOJ over lack of police shooting data

Demonstrations followed the shooting of Dijon Kizzee by Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies in 2020. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

A new government accountability report says the Department of Justice failed to consistently publish an annual summary of police excessive force data from 2016 to 2020, as required by federal law.

Why it matters: The data is crucial for the DOJ to monitor excessive force cases, and used to investigate law enforcement agencies with patterns of abuse. The DOJ can pivot off it to pursue court action to force reforms.

14 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congressional leaders clinch support for crucial defense bill, debt limit votes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer passes waiting reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Congress has found a shortcut to pass its annual defense funding bill and raise the debt limit.

Driving the news: The House will vote Tuesday night on two major bills — one creating a one-time, fast-track process for the Senate to raise the debt ceiling with just 51 votes, and another passing its annual defense bill.

Biden's pick to lead major banking regulator drops out

Saule Omarova, nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, at a confirmation hearing on Nov. 18. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Biden's pick to head one of the country's most powerful banking regulators is dropping out of consideration for the post, according to a statement from Biden that accepted the withdrawal.

Why it matters: Saule Omarova, nominated to lead the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, faced a tough path to confirmation — with opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats.