Fire Rescue Logo

Earthquake Ready

English | Español

South Carolina experiences small earthquakes on a regular basis.

  • Earthquakes strike without warning and can affect areas far from their epicenter.
  • The most significant earthquake in South Carolina state history was the 1886 Charleston earthquake which killed 60 people.

The potential for damage is much higher than it was in 1886, as a growing population and more densely populated areas create greater earthquake hazards. The destructive impact of an earthquake is also greatly influenced by the type of soil in a particular area.

  • Buildings located in marshy, sandy, or artificially filled-in land are much more susceptible to damage from the waves generated by an earthquake than those built on bedrock.
  • Hilton Head Island is mostly comprised of these sandy, marshy soils, and could expect significant amplification of forces transmitted by a nearby earthquake.

Stay Safe during an Earthquake: Drop, Cover, and Hold On

  • Drop down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquake knocks you down).
  • Cover your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall, and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • Hold on to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

Drop! Cover! Hold On!

If an earthquake happens, protect yourself right away.

  • If you are in a Car, pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set your parking brake.
    • Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards.
    • Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over.
  • If you are in Bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
  • If you are Outdoors, move to a clear area if you can safely do so.
    • Avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles, and other hazards.
  • If you are Indoors, Drop, Cover, and Hold On.
    • Drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it firmly.
    • Be prepared to move with it until the shaking stops.
    • If you are not near a desk or table, drop to the floor against the interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms.
    • Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances, and kitchen cabinets with heavy objects or glass.
    • Do not go outside!

For People with Disabilities

When you enter a room, consider your physical abilities and look for a safe place for you to "Drop, Cover, and Hold On".

  • Look for a place away from falling objects and breaking glass, such as under tables or desks, or along an interior wall.
  • If you have significant limitations, it is extremely important for you to create a safe space for yourself. Specifically if you cannot Drop, Cover, and Hold.
  • To assist you in creating a safe space secure heavy shelves and furniture, and move heavier objects to lower shelves.
  • Secure essential medical equipment such as oxygen tanks or machines, so they won't cause additional damage or injury.

Suggestions if it is difficult to Drop, Cover, and Hold On

We all do not have the ability to Drop, Cover and Hold On. Below are a few tips for people who are limited in their ability to Drop, Cover and Hold On.

  • If you are in a wheelchair, do not try to transfer to or from your chair during the shaking. Stay put. Cover your head and neck until the shaking stops.
  • Wheelchair users: lock your wheels; cover your head and neck until the shaking stops.
  • Know and understand your abilities. If you were to get under a desk and would not be able to get back up on your own, consider other ways to protect yourself, such as standing by an interior wall free from large furniture and objects that may fall or injure you.
  • Use your existing support system and develop a list of people who will check on you after an earthquake.
  • Do your best to keep calm.

Lock! Cover! Hold On!

Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake

  • Fasten shelves and appliances securely to walls.
  • Place large, heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Store breakable items, such as glass and china, on lower shelves or in drawers.
  • Repair defective electrical wiring or leaky gas fixtures, as these present major post-earthquake fire risks.
  • Repair any deep cracks in your foundation or ceiling. Get expert advice if these are discovered.


When The Earth Shakes

Federal Emergency Management Agency