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South Carolina is one of the most seismically active states in our part of the country. Unlike some disasters, earthquakes cannot be predicted, and normally, there is no time for evacuation. You should know what to do immediately when the ground starts to shake. Planning ahead is the key. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life.

When The Ground Moves

Hold On


The first thing to do when you feel an earthquake is to DROP down to the ground.

People with Functional Needs:

If you are able, drop to the ground immediately. If you use a wheelchair, lock your wheels. If you have other mobility impairments and cannot drop, stay where you are and make yourself as low as possible.


COVER your head and your neck with one arm and hand, and if sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter. If that isn’t possible, crawl next to an interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid danger spots near windows, hanging objects, mirrors, or tall furniture. With your head protected by your arms, stay on your knees and bend over to protect your vital organs.

People with Functional Needs:

Cover your head and neck with your arms, and if able, seek shelter by getting under a sturdy desk or table. If you’re unable to do that, make sure to stay as low as possible, protecting your head and neck with your arms, a book, or pillow.

Hold On

If you take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture, HOLD ON to it with one hand, and continue to protect your head and neck with the other hand. Be prepared to move with the shelter, and hold the position until the shaking stops and it is safe to move. If there is no shelter, hold on to your head and neck with both arms and hands until the shaking stops.

People with Functional Needs:

If under a shelter, hold on to it with one hand, and protect your head and neck with the other hand. Hold your position until the shaking stops, and remember to protect your head and neck with your arms. Don’t try to leave until the shaking is over.

Remember, you may need to adapt your response depending on your personal situation and abilities. The Earthquake Country Alliance has developed detailed instructions on different ways to stay safe during an earthquake, and you can find them here.

Tips For Every Situation

An earthquake can occur wherever you are with little to know warning. Know how to protect yourself as quickly as possible in any given situation to maximize your chances of survival with minimal injuries. Always try to make sure your head and neck are protected during a major earthquake.

Inside a High-Rise Building

When in a high-rise building, move against an interior wall if you are not near a desk or table. Protect your head and neck with your arms. Do not use the elevators.


When outdoors, move to a clear area away from trees, signs, buildings, or downed electrical wires and poles.

On a Sidewalk Near Buildings

When on a sidewalk near buildings, duck into a doorway to protect yourself from falling bricks, glass, plaster and other debris.

While Driving

When driving, pull over to the side of the road and stop. Avoid overpasses and power lines. Stay inside your vehicle until the shaking stops.

Inside a Crowded Store

When in a crowded store or other public place, move away from display shelves containing objects that could fall. Do not rush for the exit.

In a Stadium or Theater

When in a stadium or theater, stay in your seat, get below the level of the back of the seat and cover your head and neck with your arms.

Things You Can Do Right Now

A few simple steps can make you and your family better prepared for earthquakes.

Talk to neighbors, family or caregivers

about how to protect your home and belongings from earthquake damage. Check for hazards in your home. Repairing deep plaster cracks in ceilings and foundations and anchoring overhead lighting will help reduce the impact of an earthquake.

Make sure that you have your supplies kit

and that it is maintained. Some of the supplies that you should have in your kit include batteries for hearing aids, flashlights and similar devices, extra oxygen tanks, electrical backups for medical equipment, emergency food and water including provisions for special dietary requirements and an emergency supply of your medications.

Moments of Magnitude and Intensity

Modern day seismologists use many measurements to gauge the scope and scale of an earthquake. Magnitude is the most common measure of an earthquake's size. The United States Geological Survey currently reports earthquake magnitudes using the Moment Magnitude Scale, though many other magnitudes are calculated for research and comparison purposes. This scale is where most earthquake reports get the numbered magnitude (2.0, 4.1, 7.3, etc.). The Richter scale is an outdated method for measuring magnitude and is no longer used.

Intensity is a measure of the shaking and damage caused by the earthquake; and is often determined largely by people’s observations of what they felt and of any damage that occurred. Although numerous intensity scales have been developed over the last several hundred years to evaluate the effects of earthquakes, the one currently used in the United States is the Modified Mercalli (MM) Intensity Scale. Written as a roman numeral, intensity can vary depending on a person’s location in relation to the epicenter of an earthquake, while magnitude does not change. (source: USGS)





I:Not felt except by a very few people under especially favorable conditions.






II:Felt only by a few people at rest, especially on upper floors of buildings.

III:Felt quite noticeably by people indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings. Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motorcars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck may be felt.






IV:Felt indoors by many, outdoors by few during the day. At night, some awakened. Dishes, windows, doors disturbed; walls make cracking sounds. Vibrations felt are similar to a heavy truck striking a building.

V:Felt by nearly everyone; many awakened; some dishes, windows broken and unstable objects overturned; pendulum clocks may stop.






VI:Felt by all, many frightened; some heavy furniture movement; a few instances of fallen plaster; damage slight.

VII:Damage negligible in buildings of good design and construction; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; considerable damage in poorly built or badly designed structures; some chimneys broken.






VIII:Damage slight in specially designed structures; considerable damage in ordinary substantial building with partial collapse; damage great in poorly built structures. Chimneys, factory stacks, columns, monuments, walls may fall, heavy furniture overturned.

IX:Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb; damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse; buildings shifted off foundations.




7.0 and Higher


X:Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations; rails bent.

XI:Few, if any, (masonry) structures remain standing; bridges destroyed; rails bent greatly.

XII:Damage total; lines of sight and level are distorted; objects thrown into the air.


Major to Great