‘Shakeout’ helps agencies prepare for earthquakes

2012-10-19T03:15:00Z ‘Shakeout’ helps agencies prepare for earthquakesBy GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff Writer The Times and Democrat
October 19, 2012 3:15 am  • 

It is a quiet morning and people are going about their traditional daily routines.

Suddenly the earth begins to shake ... a little at first and then more violently. Buildings rattle and windows shatter and within seconds the world seems to come crashing down.

That’s not happened here in recent memory, but it has happened and could happen again.

To prepare for the event, local agencies joined those across the region for the Great Southeast Shakeout Earthquake Drill on Thursday.

Orangeburg County Emergency Services Director Billy Staley said county emergency officials conduct earthquake drills on a frequent basis, with rescue and emergency responders being trained on structural collapse and emergency response.

The county has an emergency operations plan, which includes instructions on how to respond to substantial infrastructure barriers such as bridges being out and major power and water line disruptions. It also has computer software that allows it to simulate an earthquake and estimate structural damage, loss of life or injuries.

The Bowman area is considered a central point for potential earthquake activity.

The town is situated on the Middleton Place-Summerville Seismic Zone, which, along with the Ravenel-Adams Run-Hollywood area near Charleston, experiences about 70 percent of the earthquake activity in the state, according to the S.C. Emergency Management Division.

The SCEMD notes that approximately 10 to 15 earthquakes are recorded annually in South Carolina, with three to five of them felt or noticed by people.

On Aug. 31, 1886, Charleston experienced a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that was felt from Cuba to New York, and Bermuda to the Mississippi River.

Calhoun County Emergency Services Director Bill Minikiewicz said the county is as prepared as it can be for any earthquake activity.

“How can you prepare?” he said. “There is no warning with an earthquake.”

He said the county does have an earthquake plan that primarily focuses on recovery.

“We don’t expect much in the way of damage here,” he said, noting the largest damage would be sustained from a Lake Murray dam breach. “Since they put the second dam in there, that has been mitigated quite a bit. But it could still happen.”

Minikiewicz said the county does have a lot of sand, which could result in liquefaction. Soil liquefaction is a phenomenon in which the strength and stiffness of soil is reduced by earthquake shaking.

But winter ice storms and tornadoes are more likely disasters for the region, he said. Those have been the primary focus of the county over the years.

Bamberg County Emergency Services Director Sharon Hammond said people need to know what they can do to better protect themselves against a quake.

“You got to protect yourself as much as you can,” Hammond said, noting individuals should be aware of their surroundings, especially for items that are overhead. “You need to get under something that is strong and that can hold you.”

Hammond said “awareness” is the key, especially after an earthquake.

“Check your pipes to see if anything is broken or if there are any frayed wires,” she said. “A key piece of equipment is to have a whistle in case you are buried under rubble.”

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551.

Copyright 2015 The Times and Democrat. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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