SC Practicing for Next Disaster

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Even though South Carolina went through a real disaster last October, with record flooding, the state on Monday started a three-day drill to practice for the next disaster. The state’s Emergency Management Division is hosting state agencies and other groups that come together to deal with things like hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods.

In the training scenario, South Carolina has been hit by four earthquakes. The largest hits Summerville and is a magnitude 6. The second-largest is a magnitude 5 that hits Union. The Clemson area is hit by a magnitude 4, and so is Marion.

The state’s Emergency Operations Center outside Columbia is where the agencies coordinate their response and send help where it’s requested by counties and cities.

State Emergency Management Director Kim Stenson says the drill is helpful because different kinds of disasters may require different kinds of response. “For the flood event, two of our systems that were remarkably resilient was the electric grid, and also communications,” he says. “And in a scenario like this, for an earthquake, we would have significant problem in both those areas, so it’s important to make sure that we’ve got those procedures in place to be able to handle this kind of situation versus the flood situation.”

They’re practicing using communications methods other than land-line phones and cell phones, like satellite phones and radios and amateur radio.

He says the floods last October did not reveal any major problems in the state’s disaster plans.

The first two days of the drill will allow at least two shifts of people to run through the exercise and get the experience. The third day will be a seminar on long-term recovery issues that would arise after earthquakes.

The largest earthquake to ever hit the eastern U.S. happened in Charleston on August 31, 1886. It was a magnitude 7.3 and was felt from Cuba to New York. The quake killed 60 people. A scientific study done for the Emergency Management Division found that a quake of about the same size in the same area would kill about 900 people and injure 45,000. Total economic losses would exceed $20 billion.

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