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County Emergency Responders Ready for Earthquake

Dorchester and Summerville officials simulated a response to a 6.8 magnitude earthquake.

Let's set the stage: a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Charleston area Sunday along the Middleton fault-line. There are 2,000 injuries and 125 unconfirmed fatalities. Aftershocks are still rolling through the Lowcountry.

This was the hypothetical scene county and town emergency responders simulated June 15 at the Dorchester County Emergency Operations Center on U.S. 78. The scenario actually happened in 1886, causing $6 million in damage and leveling 25 percent of the area.

However, a future earthquake of that same 1886 magnitude would likely cause more damage than reflected in the simulation, according to Dorchester County Emergency Management GIS analyst Justin Welch.

"Imagine a fourth of what it is today (gone)," he said.

Area responders typically hold one large simulation annually. Usually it's hurricanes, but this time it was earthquake readiness, officials said.

"These are statewide exercises to be prepared," Dorchester County Public Information Officer Kimberly Schmotzer said.

She teamed up with Summerville Public Information Officer Charlie Miller to try and get information out to the media about boil-water advisories and locations of shelter and food during the simulation.

The earthquake training was a first for the region, according to Miller.

"With a hurricane, you have time to plan," Miller said. "In an earthquake, you don't have any planning so you just got to be ready."

Want to know how you can prepare? Visit the S.C. Emergency Management Division.

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