Earthquakes strike suddenly, violently and without warning. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake.

What is an earthquake?

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the Earth’s surface. This shaking can cause buildings and bridges to collapse; disrupt gas, electric and phone service; and sometimes trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires and huge, destructive ocean waves (tsunamis). Buildings with foundations resting on unconsolidated landfill, old waterways, or other unstable soil are most at risk. Buildings or trailers and manufactured homes not tied to a reinforced foundation anchored to the ground are also at risk since they can be shaken off their mountings during an earthquake.

Earthquakes can occur at any time of year. Earthquakes occur most frequently west of the Rocky Mountains, although historically the most violent earthquakes have occurred in the central United States. All 50 states and all U.S. territories are vulnerable to earthquakes. Forty-one states or territories are at moderate to high risk.

In 1886, an earthquake struck the downtown Charleston area. Although no measurement scales were available at that time to measure the size of the earthquake, it is believed that the earthquake was considerably strong. Current seismology reports indicate that the Charleston area experiences small earthquakes on a regular basis.

Quick Emergency Info
  1. The best protection during an earthquake is to get under heavy furniture such as a desk, table or bench.
  2. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls.
  3. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of injury or death. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass and falling objects.
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