HENDERSON — North Carolina is not often shaken by an earthquake.

But it does happen.

As recently as this Aug. 9, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake hit in western North Carolina near the Virginia state line. It was strong enough for the shock to be felt as far away as Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia.

The N.C. Geological Survey reported that, although there were no significant injuries, the quake damaged structures and roads in the local area.

That’s reason enough to be prepared.

Communities across North Carolina — including Vance, Granville and Warren counties — are participating in the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drill, an international movement that takes place each year on the third Thursday of October. The event is designed to encourage planning and preparation to reduce the possibility of damage and injuries from an earthquake.

The drill centers around “Drop, Cover and Hold On.” That brief slogan describes the basic safety measures to protect personnel from injury:

• DROP onto your hands and knees to protect yourself from being knocked down. It also allows you to stay low and find shelter.

• Cover your head and neck with one arm and hand. If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter.

• Hold on until the shaking stops.

Vance County Emergency Management Director Brian Short sent a memo to county offices inviting them to participate by registering with the Great ShakeOut and then practicing Drop, Cover and Hold On on Thursday.

North Carolina “is subject to earthquakes and they do in fact occur more frequently than most people realize,” he wrote. “It is important for us all to know what to do in the event one should occur that impacts our area.”

In an email message, Granville County Emergency Management Coordinator Robin Edwards said the EMS office “will stop what we are doing, where we are, and Drop, Cover, Hold On this Thursday [at] 10:15 a.m., participating in the Great Southeast ShakeOut. We have encouraged all county departments and school systems within Granville County to do the same or to choose another date to participate.”

Warren County Emergency Management Director Dennis Paschall said he and his staff “shared the information with our Safety Committee and with each department.” They were encouraged to participate in whatever way was most appropriate for their particular situation.

Drop, Cover and Hold On is the simplest level of participation in the Great ShakeOut Drill. Level 2 participation focuses on immediate life safety and emergency response procedures during an earthquake. Level 3 emphasizes life safety and emergency response procedures during and after an earthquake.

The Great ShakeOut website explains: “ ‘Drop, Cover, Hold On’ is the recommended action to take during an earthquake because it allows you to get down before you’re thrown to the ground, provides protection from falling or flying items, and increases your chances of surviving a building collapse.”

The ShakeOut began in Southern California in 2008. It has grown so that an estimated 1.3 million people participate.

ShakeOut activities for North Carolina are supported by N.C. Emergency Management.