Alerta sísmica! Alerta sísmica!” Few things strike as much fear into the hearts of Mexico City residents as the words “seismic alert” blaring from speakers in schools and parks. It means an earthquake is rumbling up from the Pacific coast, and you have 60 to 90 seconds to get someplace safe.
I had just turned out the light to go to sleep when the alarm went off last night at almost midnight. My husband and I heard it from the elementary school next to our apartment building. We both grew up with earthquakes—him in Mexico City, me in Los Angeles—but we still spent the first 10 seconds in disbelief. A false earthquake alarm had gone off the day before, due to human error during maintenance of the system. The few other times I had heard the alarm, the resulting shaking had barely registered in my building. Couldn’t we ignore it and go to sleep?