On Jan. 17, 1994, an earthquake shattered the stillness of the early morning hours in Los Angeles. By the time the dust settled, 57 people were dead and another 9,000 had been injured.

The 6.7 magnitude Northridge temblor also caused an estimated $20 billion in damages and cost $49 billion in economic losses, according to the Earthquake Country Alliance. Until Hurricane Katrina decimated parts of New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf Coast, the Northridge earthquake was the United States’ costliest natural disaster.

The 25th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake is a poignant reminder of the realities of living in earthquake country. Angelenos and L.A.’s business community need to be prepared for when, not if, the next major earthquake strikes our city. And the business community can play an outsize role in ensuring this city and its residents are ready the next time the ground begins to shake.

Lately, private companies have been partnering with state, local and federal agencies to develop ways to use technology to help protect Los Angeles residents.

Thanks to one of these partnerships, the City of Los Angeles on Dec. 31 launched ShakeAlertLA. The mobile app makes use of the U.S. Geological Survey’s network of earthquake sensors to alert users when a 5.0 or greater magnitude earthquake is detected within Los Angeles County.

The city hired AT&T to develop the app, which was funded by a grant from the Annenberg Foundation.

Santa Monica-based Early Warning Labs is also using earthquake data from USGS for its QuakeAlert early warning system. As the Business Journal previously reported, the company has already installed its devices in several schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and LAUSD is reportedly looking to distribute the system to additional schools.

The company has also signed up clients like NBCUniversal Media and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Early Warning Labs has also deployed an earthquake alert system at City Hall.

While an early warning system may give Angelenos a few critical seconds before shaking starts to seek shelter or pull over to the side of the road, it only issues the alert after shaking has been detected.

After 25 years of relative seismic quiet, it’s easy to forget the chaos that follows earthquakes. Hopefully this anniversary will remind Los Angeles’ residents and businesses of the necessity of preparation.

The City of Los Angeles’ Emergency Management Department offers ways for business owners to ready themselves and their employees in the event disaster strikes during business hours.

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