Emergency management officials urge South Carolinians to be prepared for earthquakes

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Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 7:25 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Stop, drop, and roll is what most Americans know to do to escape a fire.

But emergency management officials urge South Carolinians to also know what to do in an earthquake: drop, cover, and hold on.

Those three steps were practiced across the world Thursday morning, as part of the Great ShakeOut, a global earthquake safety drill.

More than 350,000 South Carolinians had signed up to take part, including nearly 100 people from businesses, county governments, first responders, and other groups who participated at the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Lexington County.

“The more you practice, the more second nature it becomes,” Federal Alliance for Safe Homes President and CEO Leslie Chapman-Henderson said.

According to emergency management officials, knowing what to do in an earthquake needs to be second nature for South Carolinians.

“You’ll only have seconds to protect yourself during a major earthquake, and the ground is shaking so violently,” South Carolina Emergency Management Division Public Information Officer Derrec Becker said.

If that happens, people should drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table or crawl to a wall if a table isn’t nearby, and hold on to it until the shaking stops.

For people who use equipment like walkers and wheelchairs, the key is to lock, cover, and hold on.

If you’re inside during an earthquake, then they say to stay inside instead of trying to run outside.

“Pretty much anywhere in South Carolina can be susceptible to an earthquake, and people need to know what to do,” Becker said.

Chapman-Henderson’s organization, which is also known as FLASH, puts on workshops like the one at the state Emergency Operations Center around the country.

The last time one was held in South Carolina was over a decade ago, until this year when more than 80 earthquakes have been recorded so far in the state.

“The activity in South Carolina has most certainly raised awareness, and I think it’s also boosted people’s appreciation for the need to plan and to be prepared,” Chapman-Henderson said.

Emergency management officials say people should also prepare their homes and businesses for what could happen after a major earthquake, pointing to the 1886 Charleston earthquake that damaged thousands of buildings and killed 60 people.

“What a lot of people might not think about are the number of fires that earthquake caused,” Becker said. “You think about disrupted utility lines, gas leaks, even a hot-water heater toppling over can cause major damage to your house. Any number of things can result from a major earthquake, not just the ground shaking violently, but you should take into account all those secondary effects as well.”

The earthquake swarm South Carolina has experienced this year, particularly in the Elgin area of Kershaw County, has sparked questions about if it is building up to a much bigger earthquake.

Becker said seismologists aren’t too concerned, but at the end of the day, he noted experts are not able to predict when an earthquake will happen, so there is really no way to know.

SCEMD also recently launched an interactive version of its South Carolina Earthquake Guide, featuring resources, tips, and even myths and facts about earthquakes. People can access it by visiting earthquake.sc.

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