The recent public alerts system test demonstrated the need for a much more capable system. A dedicated app that can push notifications to registered citizens would be a powerful addition to the current system. The ability to override silenced ringtones, and utilize location-based technology would both be key capability improvements. An app could also introduce powerful tools to create a meaningful and useful flow of information BACK to city officials. App users could respond to simple questions/polls and give officials realtime data.
Major Cascadia subduction zone earthquakes could be reported to Portland residents as much as 45 seconds before the energy from the quake reaches the city. For anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in a seismically unsound building (there are plenty here), this could be the difference between life and death.
The shortage of available Applications/Datasets below is itself an indictment of the need to create a robust capability in this area. I suspect the infrastructure needed to make this a reality may not yet be in place, but the platform can be created ahead of that, and serve in myriad other instances where timely information needs to be relayed to citizens. USGS and state geology, knowing that there is a conduit for realtime data, might well be spurned into more rapid action. Our goal should be to surpass Japan (which has realtime broadcast alert capability for major quakes).