Great SouthEast ShakeOut

Nearly 100,000 people in South Carolina will take part in Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake awareness drills or programs Oct. 17, among about one million from Georgia to Delaware and millions across the country as part of an overall ShakeOut effort.

Individual schools and school districts will be leading participants, including schools in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

The basic lesson is Drop, Cover and Hold: Get down on the floor, underneath something that can protect you from things dropping and hold on until you are sure the shaking has stopped.

Another good tip is almost counter-intuitive: Stay indoors.

“Typically things (from buildings) fall outward,” said Steve Jaume, College of Charleston associate director of earthquake science. The majority of people killed in the 1886 Charleston quake died outdoors, where chimneys and other structures fell.

“People tend to panic and run, but that’s a worse thing to do. You’re more likely to be hit by something,” he said.

For more information on the ShakeOut, go to www.shakeout.org/southeast.

- Bo Petersen

Seismometer needles quivered across South Carolina on Tuesday morning when a massive earthquake shook Pakistan — 7,676 miles away.

That’s how strong the 7.7 magnitude quake was. It serves as timely reminder as the region readies to observe the Great Southeast ShakeOut on Oct. 17.

Quakes more normally are associated with Western mountain regions, but the Southeast — and the Charleston area particularly — is also vulnerable to quakes. The temblors don’t have the frequency or the rep, but they can have the smack:

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake in rural Virginia in 2011 damaged buildings in Washington, Baltimore and as far as Philadelphia more than 200 miles away.

The devastating 1886 Charleston earthquake is thought have been a 7.3 magnitude on the Richter scale. It killed 100 people, leveled nine of every 10 brick buildings in Charleston and damaged nine of every 10 in Summerville.

The coastal area around Charleston is particularly vulnerable; three faults underground converge on each other somewhere below the Ashley River near Middleton Place, the edges of tectonic plates pressing against each other. That was ground zero for the 1886 quake.

Here are a few more things that might surprise:

The Pakistan quake shook the Lowcountry about 10 times stronger than the normal background “noise” of ground shaking from cars, machines, waves, winds or people walking. But it was not enough to feel, said Steve Jaume, College of Charleston associate director of earthquake science.

Most earthquakes of a magnitude of 6 or stronger are powerful enough to be picked up by seismometers across the globe.

A series of three minor earthquakes that shook Summerville in less than a week this month wasn’t that unusual. Small quakes tend to occur in bunches, then quiet. The quakes, each slightly stronger than a 2 magnitude, occurred Sept. 15, 19 and 20.

Summerville, in fact, pretty much shakes all the time. Highly sensitive sensors were placed in the area in 2011-2012; the sensors could pick up quakes too tiny for seismometers. They found that an average 10-12 of those quakes occur per month there.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.