The earthquake threat that exists in South Carolina typically doesn’t get much attention as say, a hurricane, a tornado or even an ice storm potential. Many living in the Palmetto State aren’t aware that the epicenter of the largest earthquake ever recorded on the eastern seaboard was near Charleston, S.C. on August 31, 1886. This magnitude 7.3 earthquake resulted in 60 deaths, 90 percent of all buildings in the Charleston area were destroyed and property damage was estimated at $5-$6 million in the period’s currency.
The 1886 quake was felt over 2.5 million square miles from Chicago to Cuba. The South Carolina Emergency Management Division estimates an earthquake of similar magnitude occurring today would result in hundreds of fatalities; the damage to infrastructure and the economy would be spread over many states for many years afterwards.
It’s important for communities that may not be as susceptible to frequent earthquakes to be aware that it’s still a risk they should prepare for. Even though South Carolina hasn’t experienced an earthquake of such severity since the 1886 Charleston event, we experience 10-30 measurable tremors a year, with 5-6 on average physically felt. That’s why as part of the South Carolina’s annual Earthquake Awareness Week, more than 213,000 people from the state are participating in the Great Southeast ShakeOut. For example, an elementary school will be visiting the South Carolina State Museum on Thursday, visiting an exhibit on the 1886 earthquake and also participating in the drill at 10:18 a.m. Additionally, South Carolina Emergency Management Division is holding an earthquake preparedness table top earthquake exercise with several county emergency management agencies near the South Carolina-Georgia border.
Planning for this drill has given state emergency management communities an opportunity to have a little fun while conducting a disaster preparedness campaign. Through the development of Public Service Announcements, promoting social media pages, hosting chats and getting out in the communities, public information teams from the Nation’s Capital to Savannah and everywhere in between have been creative and enthusiastic about the Great Southeast ShakeOut- a testament to how dedicated our emergency management community is to making sure the people we serve have the information they need to make decisions about their personal safety.
We’ve been able to discuss the differences between the Richter and Mercali scales, to explain why some companies don’t offer earthquake insurance and to encourage people to take this opportunity to understand the types of emergencies their communities are most vulnerable to and take steps to prepare for them; all through multiple platforms, traditional and new. Plus, in states where college football reigns supreme, it’s been a friendly competition to see which state gets the most participants to practice “Drop, Cover and Hold On” at 10:18, on 10/18. I hope you’ll sign up to participate, too.
Other ShakeOut blog posts
- Workplace Preparedness and the Great ShakeOut
Paulette Aniskoff, Director, Individual and Community Preparedness Division
- We Must be Prepared. Even for Earthquakes.
Buddy Harris, North Carolina Central University
- ShakeOut and my school
Gabriela Rodriguez, FEMA Youth Preparedness Council
- North Carolinians Get Ready to Drop, Cover, and Hold On
Doug Hoell, Director, North Carolina Emergency Management
- “Go One Step Further” and the Great ShakeOut
Bob Boyd, Chief Executive Officer, Agility Recovery Solutions