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What to do in an earthquake

Earthquakes are relatively common in New Zealand, as we are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is an area where a large number of volcanoes circle the base of the Pacific ocean. The movement of tectonic plates in this area often cause earthquakes.

Earthquakes have the potential to cause serious damage to property and personal injury.

There is the added danger that earthquakes could trigger other events, like landslides, floods, fire or tsunami.


Before an earthquake

Getting ready before an earthquake strikes will help reduce damage to your property and help you survive.

  • Create an emergency plan with your family and maintain an emergency survival kit.
  • Practice the Drop, Cover and Hold method
  • Read your house insurance policy, and check what you are covered for
  • Ensure your house keeps to the New Zealand Building Code of Compliance
  • Make sure any large or heavy pieces of furniture are secured to the wall or floor.


During an earthquake

  • DropCover and Hold when you feel the first jolt of a quake

  • If you are inside a building, use the Drop, Cover and Hold method - stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it's safe to move

  • If you are in an elevator, Drop, Cover and HoldWhen it stops shaking, try and get out at the nearest floor if you can do so safely
  • If you are outdoors when the shaking starts, move away from buildings, trees, streetlights, and power lines if it is safe to do so, then Drop, Cover and Hold

  • If you are at the beach or near the coast, Drop, Cover and Hold then move to higher ground in case the earthquake triggers a tsunami

  • If you are in a hilly area, be wary of falling debris or landslides

  • If you are driving, pull over to the side of the road, stop and stay there with your seat belt on until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid areas that might have been damaged.


After an earthquake

  • Expect to feel aftershocks

  • Give yourself first aid if you need to, then check if anyone else needs help

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

  • If you see a small fire, put it out if you can, or contact the fire department

  • Listen to local radio stations for reports from Civil Defence about what to do next

  • If you see any signs of electrical system damage, such as sparks, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box

  • If you are in a damaged building, try to get outside and find a safe, open place. Use the stairs, and stay out of elevators

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

  • Only use the phone for short essential calls to keep the lines clear for emergency calls

  • If your property is damaged, take notes and photos for insurance purposes. If you are renting, contact your landlord and your contents insurance company only when you are in a safe place to do so.


Some resources that could help:




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