We test the Japanese ground‐motion‐based earthquake early warning (EEW) algorithm, propagation of local undamped motion (PLUM), in southern California with application to the U.S. ShakeAlert system. In late 2018, ShakeAlert began limited public alerting in Los Angeles to areas of expected modified Mercalli intensity (IMMI) 4.0+ for magnitude 5.0+ earthquakes. Most EEW systems, including ShakeAlert, use source‐based methods: they estimate the location, magnitude, and origin time of an earthquake from P waves and use a ground‐motion prediction equation to identify regions of expected strong shaking. The PLUM algorithm uses observed ground motions directly to define alert areas and was developed to address deficiencies in the Japan Meteorological Agency source‐based EEW system during the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku earthquake sequence. We assess PLUM using (a) a dataset of 193 magnitude 3.5+ earthquakes that occurred in southern California between 2012 and 2017 and (b) the ShakeAlert testing and certification suite of 49 earthquakes and other seismic signals. The latter suite includes events that challenge the current ShakeAlert algorithms. We provide a first‐order performance assessment using event‐based metrics similar to those used by ShakeAlert. We find that PLUM can be configured to successfully issue alerts using IMMI trigger thresholds that are lower than those implemented in Japan. Using two stations, a trigger threshold of IMMI 4.0 for the first station and a threshold of IMMI 2.5 for the second station PLUM successfully detect 12 of 13 magnitude 5.0+ earthquakes and issue no false alerts. PLUM alert latencies were similar to and in some cases faster than source‐based algorithms, reducing area that receives no warning near the source that generally have the highest ground motions. PLUM is a simple, independent seismic method that may complement existing source‐based algorithms in EEW systems, including the ShakeAlert system, even when alerting to light (IMMI 4.0) or higher ground‐motion levels.