Android phones will be used to sense earthquakes around the world and may one day be able to provide global warnings, with the first mass alert system unveiled Tuesday in California, Google announced.

Google, which helped develop Android, worked with California and the U.S. Geological Survey to build the quake alerts into all phones that run the commonplace mobile operating system. Android users who have enabled location services and are near a quake of magnitude 4.5 or greater will receive a full-screen earthquake warning telling them to drop to the floor and seek cover.

The screen also will provide estimates of the quake’s magnitude and distance from the user.

The alert is based on the projected shaking at a particular location and a certain level of intensity. Depending on their distance from a quake, people could get several seconds or perhaps a minute of warning.

The warnings are powered by California’s ShakeAlert system, which uses signals from more than 700 seismometers installed around the state that can sense seismic waves.

However, users won’t need to download the state’s MyShake app in order to receive the alerts. That application, developed by the University of California, Berkeley and launched last year, has been downloaded by only about 1 million of California’s 40 million residents. By contrast, many millions of people own Android phones.

(read more at apnews.com)