Lowcountry residents might not prepare for earthquakes with the same urgency they do for hurricanes, but state emergency officials say quakes are just as likely here as any natural disaster.
The S.C. Emergency Management Division is driving that point home during Earthquake Awareness Week by urging residents to practice their disaster plans this week.
Earthquakes hit with no warning, leaving only seconds to seek protection.
An earthquake drill called the Great Southeast ShakeOut will be at 10:18 a.m. today in Southeastern states. Emergency officials will send information about the drill out on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tone-alert weather radio and broadcast media.
Once the signal is broadcast, all participants should "drop, cover and hold on" and stay in that position for at least 60 seconds.
So far, more than 243,000 people have registered to participate in South Carolina, according to the ShakeOut website.
Beaufort County public schools also have earthquake drills planned this week to practice the technique, school district spokesman Jim Foster said.
The emergency division advises dropping to the ground before an earthquake causes you to fall, taking cover under a sturdy desk or table and holding on until the shaking stops. If there isn't a table or desk nearby, get to a nearby corner and cover your head and neck with your arms. Studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes show that people are more likely to be injured by falling or by being hit by flying objects than by a collapsing building.
Carl Statham, a disaster services specialist with the Lowcountry Chapter of the American Red Cross, suggests people download the Red Cross Earthquake App, which includes epicenter location, a "Shake Zone Impact Map," locations of Red Cross shelters and directions for preparing emergency plans.
"It's probably the best distribution of preparedness information we've ever had," Statham said. "It even has a test on it."
Statham said the Red Cross has also been urging people to participate in the ShakeOut. He said Lowcountry residents are closer to seismic activity than they might think.
In July 2012, six or so small earthquakes shook Summerville, with the highest magnitude reaching 2.8, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Geologists estimate that 15 to 20 quakes hit the Palmetto State each year, with residents feeling tremors during about five of them.
The last earthquake to make state history books was in 1886 in Charleston. The 7.3 magnitude quake crippled the city and cost from 60-110 lives.
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