RALEIGH — North Carolina will hold its first statewide earthquake drill Thursday.
At 10:18 a.m., state officials are encouraging schools, businesses and residents to take a few minutes to rehearse what they would do if the ground starts shaking.
The idea may have once seemed preposterous, until the state was shaken by a 5.8-magnitude quake centered in Virginia last year. On Tuesday, a quake centered in southern Maine rattled buildings in several New England states where earthquakes are rare.
Thursday’s drill is part of a regional exercise called “The Southeast Shakeout,” involving emergency officials from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and the District of Columbia.
The event will be similar to the tornado drill held each spring, though there won’t be a test of the Emergency Alert System to announce it because earthquakes occur without warning.
The recommended response to an earthquake can be summed up as “drop, cover and hold on.” Drop to the ground, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on until the shaking stops. Stay away from bookshelves, lamps, TVs, cabinets and other objects that may fall.
And don’t run outside, where the shifting ground and falling objects will make moving around dangerous. If you happen to be outside already, move to a clear area if possible. If you are driving, pull over, set the parking brake and sit tight until the quake ends.
Last year’s quake, on Aug. 23, was centered near Mineral, Va., about 40 miles northwest of Richmond. It did “moderately heavy” damage to buildings in rural Louisa County, Va., and less serious damage to some structures farther away, including the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
It was felt as far away as Canada and Florida, and it caused a flood of 911 calls in the Triangle.
Since then, as least four small quakes have occurred in North Carolina, all in the western half of the state, according to state officials. Two of them, one in Union County in March and one in Macon County in June, were strong enough that some residents reported feeling the ground shake.
For more information about The Southeast Shakeout, go to www.shakeout.org/southeast.