The Charleston Earthquake of 1886 is recorded as the most damaging earthquake in the United States. The 7.3 magnitude event was felt over 2.5 million square miles from Cuba to New York. Yet, for most, the catastrophic event is all but forgotten, except however for first responders.
On May 16, the Williamsburg County Emergency Management/E-911 Division (EMD) held an Earthquake Tabletop Exercise for Williamsburg County agencies who continually update preparedness in case such an event occurs. There is not a completely reliable method for predicting the time, place and size of an earthquake, especially since the majority of earthquakes occur in the Coastal Plain. Experts do agree that where earthquakes have occurred before, they can again. Therefore it is always important to be prepared.
Attendants included Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office, Williamsburg County and Kingstree Fire Departments, Williamsburg County Public Works, Red Cross, DHEC, Williamsburg County Transit System, and Williamsburg County School District. EMD Director Vivian Bufkin said holding the exercise that included hurricane response is a requirement of the state but there was another purpose. “We were also doing it because hurricane season is June 1, and we wanted to prepare ourselves, as public safety, to be prepared for a disaster if it comes. And making people aware that hurricane season is starting in a couple of weeks,” said Bufkin.
The agenda include speakers, Michaele Cochasie, NOAA Weather and Brandon Ellis, SC EMD REM, who created scenarios with attendants engaging by describing solutions and offering ideas. According to a study conducted by the South Carolina Emergency Management Division if a similar earthquake as the one in Charleston happened today, approximately 45,000 casualties and economic losses over $10 billion could result in the tri-county areas of Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester.
After the meeting, everyone was invited outside to experience the feel of an earthquake. In 2018, the EMD acquired a mobile simulation vehicle that is equipped to demonstrate an earthquake with vibration and even objects flying off shelves but also a hurricane and fire events. The EMD modular simulator is available for classroom demonstrations.
The EMD provides emergency assistance to the citizens of Williamsburg County prior to, during, and after a disaster. The agency coordinates with public safety officials to ensure that an efficient and effective response is in order. A Public Safety Awareness Fair is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, at 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Williamsburg County Recreation grounds at 2084 Thurgood Marshall Hwy., Kingstree. The public is welcome to attend. For more information about the safety fair or booking the simulator call the EMD at (843) 354-9330.