Earthquakes are the vibrations caused by rocks breaking under stress. The underground surface along which the rock breaks and moves is called a fault plane. Earthquakes in Australia are usually caused by movements along faults as a result of compression in the Earth’s crust.

The impact of an earthquake depends on its depth, proximity to inhabited areas and rating or magnitude from 1-10 (1 may not be noticeable to 10 causing significant damage).

There may be little if any warning of an impending earthquake – it’s possible you may feel it before emergency services know it’s going to happen.

Earthquakes can occur at any time of day and any time of year.


  • Sometimes preceded by stillness and/or unusual animal behaviour.
  • Sometimes sounds such as rolling or rumbling may be heard.
  • Movement of the earth – this could be a jolt or series of jolts of varying intensities and/or a rolling sensation.
  • Inside a building items may fall from the ceiling, walls or out of cupboards, the water in toilets may slosh around and walls may crack if the shock is severe.

Before an Earthquake

  • Hold a family meeting to prepare your household Emergency Plan so everyone knows what to do, where to meet and how to get out.
  • Identify how and where to turn off the mains supply for water, power and gas.

During an Earthquake


  • Take cover – get under a sturdy table, bed or other piece of furniture or doorway. Hold on until the shaking stops.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops. There may be aftershocks.
  • Don’t use lifts.
  • The electricity may go out and sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.


  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls.


  • Stop as quickly as safety allows and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges and ramps that might have been damaged.


  • Do not light a match or use a lighter.
  • Keep as still as possible.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap a pipe or wall or call out so rescuers can locate you.
  • Call 112 if your mobile phone is with you and working.

After An Earthquake

  • Have a battery operated radio and tune into your local radio station and heed warnings and advice.
  • Try to stay calm and help others around you.
  • Check for injuries and apply first aid. Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger.
  • Beware of damaged power lines, bridges and trees.
  • Heed all warnings and don’t go sightseeing. Instead, check and offer help to neighbours, friends and family.
  • Be prepared for aftershocks.
  • Don’t make unnecessary telephone calls.
  • Turn off electricity, gas or water supplies and check whether they have been affected.
  • Do not light matches until after you have checked for gas or fuel leaks.
  • Wear rubber boots or rubber-soled shoes and rubber or leather gloves.
  • Check for cracks and damage to your building’s floors, walls and ceilings. Evacuate if the building is badly damaged.
  • Follow any instructions for treating water. Conserve food and water as supplies may be interrupted.

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