All of New Zealand is at risk of earthquakes. We can’t predict when one will happen, but we can protect ourselves and our family. Find out what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Get ready before an earthquake

Work out what supplies you might need and make a plan together.

Regularly practise Drop, Cover and Hold by signing up for New Zealand ShakeOut, our national earthquake drill and tsunami hīkoi.

Identify safe spaces to Drop, Cover and Hold.

  • Somewhere close to you, no more than a few steps away, to avoid injury from flying debris.
  • Under a strong table. Hold on to the table legs to keep it from moving away from you.
  • Next to an interior wall, away from windows that can shatter and cause injury and tall furniture that can fall on you. Protect your head and neck with your arms.
  • Not in a doorway — in most homes doorways are no stronger than any other part on the house and a swinging door could cause more injury.

Check your household insurance policy to make sure you’re covered.

Make your home safer by making sure objects that could fall and hurt are either placed somewhere else or fixed and fastened at home.

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In an emergency, you may be stuck at home for three days or more. Figure out what supplies you need and make a plan to work out what you need to get your family through.

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Make a plan online with your family/flatmates/friends to get through an emergency. Think about the things you need every day and work out what you would do if you didn’t have them.

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Visit EQC’s Fix. Fasten. Don't Forget. for more information on making your home safer.

What to do during an earthquake

Drop, Cover and Hold is the right action to take in an earthquake. It stops you being knocked over, makes you a smaller target for falling and flying objects and protects your head, neck and vital organs.

Drop, Cover and Hold

DROP down on your hands and knees. This protects you from falling but lets you move if you need to.

COVER your head and neck (or your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk (if it is within a few steps of you). If there is no shelter nearby, cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.

HOLD on to your shelter (or your position to protect your head and neck) until the shaking stops. If the shaking shifts your shelter around, move with it.

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Do not run outside or you risk getting hit by falling masonry and glass.

If you are near the coast remember, Long or Strong, Get Gone.

  • Drop, Cover and Hold until the shaking is over.
  • If the earthquake was longer than a minute or strong enough to make it difficult to stand, move quickly to the nearest high ground, out of all tsunami evacuation zones, or as far inland as you can as there may be risk of a tsunami.
  • Find out more about how to protect yourself from a tsunami.

If you are outside, move no more than a few steps away from buildings, trees, streetlights and power lines, then Drop, Cover and Hold.

If you are in an elevator, Drop, Cover and Hold. When the shaking stops, try and get out at the nearest floor if you can safely do so.

If you are driving, pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps as they may have been damaged.

If you are in bed, stay in bed and pull the sheets and blankets over you and use your pillow to protect your head and neck. You are less likely to be injured if you stay in bed.

If you use a cane, Drop, Cover and Hold or sit on a chair, bed, etc. and cover your head and neck with both hands. Keep your cane near you so it can be used when the shaking stops.

If you use a walker or wheelchair, Lock, Cover and Hold. LOCK your wheels (if applicable). If using a walker carefully get as low as possible. Bend over and COVER your head and neck as best you can. Then HOLD on until the shaking stops.

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Download this factsheet that explains why Drop, Cover and Hold is the right action to take.

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Pull Over and Wait

If you are driving, PULL over to a clear location, stop and WAIT there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops.

Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps as they may have been damaged.

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What to do after an earthquake

Check yourself for injuries and get first aid if necessary.

Do not run outside. It is frightening to stay in a building immediately after an earthquake but it is much safer than immediately going outside. An earthquake is not like a fire. You do not have to evacuate a building straight away unless it is showing obvious signs of distress.

Look quickly for damage around you, particularly in buildings where furniture and fittings may have become hazardous.

Look for small fires and, if possible and safe to do so, extinguish them.

If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window, get everyone out quickly and turn off the gas if you can.

If you see sparks, broken wires or evidence of electrical system damage, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box if it is safe to do so.

If available, put on long trousers, a long-sleeved top, sturdy shoes and heavy duty gloves to protect yourself from injury by broken objects.

If you are in a store, unfamiliar commercial building or on public transport, follow the instructions of those in charge.

Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one, Drop, Cover and Hold. Aftershocks can occur minutes, days, weeks, months and even years following an earthquake.

Watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines, and stay out of damaged areas.

Use social media or text messages instead of calling to keep phone lines clear for emergency calls.

Keep control of your pets; protect them from hazards and protect other people from your animals.

If your property is damaged:

  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
  • If you rent your property, contact your landlord and your contents insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Take photos of any damage. It will help speed up assessments of your claims.
  • Do not do anything that puts your safety at risk or causes more damage to your property.

Stay informed by listening to the radio or following your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group online.

Check on your neighbours and anyone who might need your help.

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The National Emergency Management Agency has information on finding your local Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

  • Earthquakes are the shaking of the surface of the Earth caused by a sudden release of energy.

    Most (but not all) earthquakes start with this release of energy on faults. Faults are breaks that go deep within the Earth’s crust. Tension builds along faults as tectonic plates, which are always on the move, scrape over, under or past each other.

    Earthquakes may be a foreshock or may be followed by aftershocks. Foreshocks are earthquakes that precede a larger earthquake.  Aftershocks are earthquakes that follow the main shock as the rocks readjust and the ground settles into position. Aftershocks can occur minutes, days, weeks, months and even years after the main shock.

    While the number of aftershocks decreases over time following a large earthquake, the magnitude of those aftershocks can be almost as high as the main shock. Even aftershocks that are smaller in magnitude than the main shock can cause stronger ground shaking, depending on their depth and location.

    New Zealand lies on the boundary of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates, so earthquakes happen here every day. Most are too weak, too deep, or too far offshore to be noticed. However, a strong, damaging earthquake can happen at any time, and can be followed by aftershocks that continue for a long time.

    While we know the locations of many large fault lines in New Zealand, there are many other faults buried underground that we don’t know about. Everywhere in New Zealand is at risk of earthquake hazards.

    Earthquake hazards include ground shaking, land deformation and liquefaction.

    Earthquakes can also trigger other hazards such as tsunami, landslides, floods and fires.

    All of these hazards can cause damage to people, buildings and infrastructure, including roads, pipes in the ground, and electricity and telephone networks.

Find out more about what you need to do before, during and after these hazards.