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Earth shake! Brinco is a personal early-warning system for earthquakes and tsunamis

Thanks to a recent story in The New Yorker, everyone along the Cascadia subduction zone — the fault line off the Pacific Northwest coast — is freaked. That includes everyone in the Digital Trends Portland office, because there’s no getting around it that many are unprepared for the giant earthquake that will happen at some point.

We’ve only known for a few decades that this danger exists in the PNW, and there hasn’t been a serious quake in centuries. Angel Rodriguez, on the other hand, grew up in Panama, where he’s been awoken by shaking more than once. He’s a member of the Brinco team, a company that has created a personal earthquake and tsunami warning system. The round device can provide between five and 30 seconds of notice before a quake and give tsunami alerts several hours in advance. Named after the Spanish word for “jump,” the Brinco connects to your Wi-Fi so it can receive updates.

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Akin to a smoke alarm, the device lights up and buzzes when a disaster is about to strike, and you’ll get an accompanying text message as well. Audio warnings will provide further guidance, such as, “Mild earthquake expected in 22 seconds” or “Destructive violent shaking expected in 45 seconds that will last one minute.” It receives its data from the NOAA Tsunami Warning Center and from networks such as the Global Seismograph Network.

If it detects an earthquake, it sends out an alert. “The destructive seismic waves generated by earthquakes travel at about 6 kilometers per second and our electronic warnings travel more than 10,000 times faster at close to the speed of light,” according to the company. Your Brinco will also provide data to the network, so if there’s no time to warn you about a quake that’s shaking your house, well, at least your Brinco’s data can alert someone several miles away of what’s coming.

Rodriguez and fellow Brinco member Branden Christiansen have been making seismographers for years with OSOP, but they wanted to make a personal warning system. Right now, you can pledge $200 to get your own Brinco on Indiegogo. That’s quite a bit more than a similar device, the Grillo, which would also harness the Internet to broadcast Mexico’s seismic alert warnings to areas where there are gaps in the system.

Neither system can predict earthquakes, but they could give you a few precious seconds to step away from that metal sculpture of a porcupine you have hanging in your foyer.