All of New Zealand is at risk of earthquakes. We can’t predict when one will happen, but we can protect ourselves and our whānau. Find out what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Work out what supplies you might need and make a plan together.
Practise Drop, Cover and Hold at least twice a year. You can o this when the clocks change and by taking part in New Zealand ShakeOut. It's important to practise the righ action to take so that when a real earthquake happens, you know what to do.
Identify safe spaces to Drop, Cover and Hold.
Make a plan online with your whānau 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.
Visit the Earthquake Commission's website for more information on making your home safer.
In an emergency, you may be stuck at home for three days or more. Your house is already full of emergency items disguised as everyday things. Figure out what supplies you need and make a plan to get through.
Drop, Cover and Hold is the right action to take in an earthquake. It:
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.
Do not run outside or you risk getting hit by falling bricks and glass.
If you are near the coast remember, Long or Strong, Get Gone.
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 be 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 you can use it 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.
Read a New Zealand perspective on floods on Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
Download and share this factsheet on what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
If you are driving, PULL over to a clear location. Stop. 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.
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 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 or you are in a tsunami evacuation zone.
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.
Turn of water, electricity and gas if advised to. 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 you can, put on protective clothing that covers your arms and legs, and sturdy footwear. This is 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 more shaking. Each time you feel earthquake shaking, Drop, Cover and Hold. More shaking can happen 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:
Stay informed. Listen to the radio or follow your Civil Defence Emergency Management Group online.
Check on your neighbours and anyone who might need your help.
Find your local Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group.
If your property is damaged in an emergency, take photos of any damage to support your insurance claim. Find advice on taking photos to support your claim on the Earthquake Commission's website.
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 happens minutes, days, weeks, months and even years after the main shock.
Although there are less aftershocks over time after a large earthquake, the magnitude (size) of aftershocks can be almost as high as the main shock. Even aftershocks that have a smaller magnitude can cause stronger ground shaking. This depends 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 for us to notice. 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.
All of these hazards can cause damage to people, buildings and infrastructure. This includes roads, pipes in the ground, and electricity and telephone networks.
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