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A cricket to save lives

Even tough most people will remember the powerful earthquake that killed 10.000 people in Mexico city in 1985, Mexico is also about small, day to day earthquakes that many inhabitants are not always aware of, despite a dense public infrastructure. 

“It’s so ridiculous that we have this infrastructure but the final step is missing,” said Andres Meira, a British architect who felt compelled to create his own earthquake alert after moving to Mexico City from Haiti in 2012. “Coming from this apocalyptic landscape in Haiti, earthquakes were on my mind,” the social entrepreneur said.

Grillo, the Spanish word for cricket, is a small box to be used for a private usage, and that flashes a circle of blue dots to show it is working and sounds an alarm ahead of an earthquake. Its antenna picks up signals directly from sensors spread around the southern coast of Mexico where earthquakes are usually first felt near major fault lines, some 300 km away from the capital.

It takes well over a minute for the seismic waves to travel to Mexico City, in central Mexico, but the sensors’ signals arrive almost instantaneously, providing valuable time for inhabitants to move to safety. Signals also alert other cities in earthquake-prone areas of central and southern Mexico.

 

Of course, Mexico is well equipped when it comes to classic Receivers, but those transmit the warnings through schools, hospitals, and public buildings, and many individuals at home or in the workplace can miss the warnings.

One company is officially certified to produce alert receivers for private use but it sells them for around US $300, beyond the budget of most households. The Grillo costs about US $50 and Meira aims to bring the cost down further. “The goal is to get as many Grillos into the 5.7 million homes that can receive the SASMEX (official alert) signal,” Meira said.

 

In the future, Meira hopes the design will evolve into a home safety hub including features such as a smoke detector and carbon monoxide sensor.

This article was written by Sophie Nicholson and makes part of the impact journalism day, a project developed by Spark News. 

Learn more

The Grillo Box: http://grillo.io/

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