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.

Reduce the impacts of earthquakes

Make your home safer. Fix and fasten objects that could fall and hurt you in an earthquake.

Review your insurance regularly. Having insurance cover for your home and contents is important to help you get back on your feet if you suffer damage in a disaster.

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For information on how to prepare your home and protect your whānau, visit the Be Prepared section of the Earthquake Commission's website.

We can't predict disasters, but we can prepare for them. One of the best places to start is with your home. Find out what you can do to make your home safer and why you should check your insurance regularly.

Get ready before 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 do this when the clocks change and by taking part in New Zealand ShakeOut. It's important to practise the right action to take so that when a real earthquake happens, you know what to do.

Identify safe spaces to Drop, Cover and Hold within your home, school, work and other places you often visit.

  • 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.
  • Away from windows that can shatter and cause injury. And from tall furniture that can fall on you. Protect your head and neck with your arms.
  • Not in a doorway. In most homes, doorways are not stronger than any other part of a house and a swinging door can cause more injury.

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.

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For information on how to prepare your home and protect your whānau, visit the Be Prepared section of the Earthquake Commission's website.

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.

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.

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.

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

Drop, Cover and Hold

In an earthquake Drop, Cover and Hold.

Drop down on your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck. Hold on to your shelter.

Learn how to Drop, Cover and Hold
 Man and his son doing Drop, Cover and Hold under a table
Drop, Cover, Hold

Learn why Drop, Cover and Hold is the right action to take in an earthquake.

drop-cover-right-action-fact-en-apr15.pdf pdf 160 KB
Drop, Cover, Hold

Download and share this factsheet on what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

drop-cover-earthquake-happens-fact-en-dec16.pdf pdf 2 MB

Pull Over and Wait

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.

When the road shakes, pull over and wait

What to do after an earthquake

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.

  • 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.
  • Turn off 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.
  • 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.
  • Check on your neighbours and anyone who might need your help.

If your property is damaged

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

Stay informed

Listen to the radio or follow your Civil Defence Emergency Management Group online.

Find out how to stay informed
 Cartoon of a woman and her dog receiving an Emergency Mobile Alert
Civil Defence logo

Find your local Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Group.

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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.

    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. This includes roads, pipes in the ground, and electricity and telephone networks.

Translated information about earthquakes

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Find information in Te Reo Māori on what to do before, during and after an earthquake on Get Ready, Get Thru.

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Find information in عربي (Arabic) on what to do before, during and after an earthquake on Get Ready, Get Thru.

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Find information in हिन्दी (Hindi) on what to do before, during and after an earthquake on Get Ready, Get Thru.

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Find information in 한국어 (Korean) on what to do before, during and after an earthquake on Get Ready, Get Thru.

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Find information in Gagana Samoa (Samoan) on what to do before, during and after an earthquake on Get Ready, Get Thru.

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Find information in 简体中文 (Simplified Chinese) on what to do before, during and after an earthquake on Get Ready, Get Thru.

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Find information in Lea Faka-Tonga (Tongan) on what to do before, during and after an earthquake on Get Ready, Get Thru.

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Find information in 繁體中文 (Traditional Chinese) on what to do before, during and after an earthquake on Get Ready, Get Thru.

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