SC emergency officials prepare for future earthquakes in Aiken

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News 12 at First at Five / Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- On Aug. 31, 1886, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Charleston.

"There was a number of casualties. The damage to building you can still see today if you walk through the Battery of Charleston," said Derrec Becker, the public information coordinator for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division.

To this day, South Carolina still gets about 15 to 20 quakes each year.

"It's not really a question of if we're going to experience an earthquake, but when," he said.

That's the reason Aiken County is thinking ahead. The county held a drill on Wednesday.

"This is the first one that the state has had," said Tommy Thompson, the emergency services director for Aiken County Emergency Services.

"So we are a pioneer to, first of all, have exercise of this nature, but then also to have it on a regional basis," said Paul Matthews, the assistant coordinator.

That's because Aiken County wasn't the only participant in this drill, which planned a response to a theoretical 6.0-magnitude quake in Aiken. Other counties were there, too.

"Edgefield County, we have Saluda County, we have Lexington County, we have Orangeburg County and we have Barnwell County," Matthews said.

In this drill, they learned how all these counties should respond to an earthquake here.

"An earthquake that occurs anywhere in the state of South Carolina of a significant magnitude would affect the entire state, let alone the entire region," Becker said.

They discussed what areas should work well and what areas need work.

"Our number one priority is the protection of lives and then our communications," Thompson said.

"Laying out all these potential issues now when the sky is blue and everything's nice helps us be better prepared for the incidents that we know are coming in the future," Becker said.

Thursday marks another important even during Earthquake Awareness Week. The Great Southeast ShakeOut Earthquake Drill takes place, and all are encouraged to drop, cover and hold on for one minute starting at 10:18 a.m.

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