Earthquakes—before, during and after
An earthquake is a shaking of the Earth's crust. They strike without warning and vary greatly in severity. Earthquakes can be caused by:
- underground volcanic forces
- the breaking of rock under the Earth's surface
- a sudden movement along an existing fault line.
Most earthquake deaths are caused by falling objects.
Other effects of an earthquake can include:
- damage to electricity and telephone lines
- rupturing of gas, sewer and water mains
- landslides, faults and subsidence
Since 1994, all buildings in Australia must be built to resist earthquakes.
Before an earthquake
- Ask your local council
- if earthquakes have ever occurred in your area and what damage resulted
- about ways to make your house safer in the event of an earthquake
- Find out how and where to turn off power, gas and water
- Plan with your family (or household) where you will meet if separated
- Know your safe areas during an earthquake
- Check your insurance policy to make sure it is adequate and that you are covered for damage caused by earthquakes.
Watch for warning signs
- Erratic animal behaviour—scared or confused pets, or birdcalls not usually heard at night may indicate that an earthquake is imminent
- Ground water levels—watch for sudden water level changes in wells or artesian bores.
During an earthquake
- If indoors—stay there (clear of falling debris outside)
- Keep clear of windows, chimneys and overhead fittings. Shelter under and hold onto a door frame, strong table or bench
- In high-rise buildings, stay clear of windows and outer walls. Shelter under a desk near a pillar or internal wall
- Do not use elevators
- In crowded buildings, do not rush for doors, but move clear of overhead fittings and shelves
- If outside—keep well clear of buildings, overhead structures, walls, bridges, powerlines, trees, etc
- On a city street, shelter from falling debris under strong archways or doorways of buildings. Don't go under awnings as they may collapse
- If in a vehicle—stop in an open area until the shaking stops
- Beware of downed powerlines and road damage, including overpasses and bridges.
- Listen to your car radio for warnings before moving.
After an earthquake
- Turn off electricity, gas, and water. Do not light matches until after you have checked for gas or fuel leaks
- Check for injuries and apply first aid. Do not move seriously injured people unless they are in immediate danger
- Check for broken water, sewerage or electrical mains
- Do not use the telephone immediately (to avoid congestion) unless there is a life-threatening situation
- Check for cracks and damage to your building
- Evacuate the building if it is badly damaged, and be prepared for aftershocks
- Do not waste food and water as supplies may be interrupted. Collect emergency water from heaters, ice cubes, toilet tanks and canned foods
- Listen to your local radio station and heed warnings and advice on damage and service disruptions
- Try to avoid driving unless in an emergency (to keep the streets free for emergency services)
- Do not go sightseeing or enter damaged buildings
- Try to stay calm and help others if possible.