Five safety tips to survive an earthquake

As a nation, we’re fairly used to dealing with natural disasters. From floods to droughts, bushfires to landslides, our wide brown land has seen all these natural disasters in Australia.

But even so, we’re fairly safe from earthquakes in Australia, aren’t we?
The answer is (frustratingly!) yes and no.

It’s true that as a nation, Australia has been relatively untouched by earthquakes, especially when compared with our regional neighbours. That’s not to say we haven’t experienced some pretty damaging earthquakes – or that we won’t in the future.

What is an earthquake – and why do they happen?

An earthquake is the result of the vibrations caused by rocks breaking under stress. These rocks are situated on tectonic plates and, according to seismologists, our continent is actually rattled by roughly one small earthquake a day. This is because the Indo-Australian plate, on which we lie, is constantly colliding with the Pacific plate in the east and the Eurasian plate to the north.

When these forces get big enough they actually break the rock, which causes vibrations in the Earth, resulting in what we know as an earthquake.

Safety tips for surviving...

We never know if or when an earthquake will strike – just as we don’t know in what situation we will be in if one does strike. So, to cover as many bases as possible, here are five essential safety tips to surviving:

…if you are inside during an earthquake

  1. Drop to the ground.
  2. Take cover under a sturdy table or a piece of furniture.
  3. Stay away from glass, windows or walls.
  4. Watch for falling debris or heavy fixtures that could injure if struck.
  5. Stay inside the building until all shaking has stopped.

…if you are outside during an earthquake

  1. Resist the temptation to try to outrun the earthquake. It can't be done and you need to stay calm and keep a level head.
  2. Do not seek refuge inside a building. Stay outside.
  3. Move into an open area, away from buildings and trees if possible.
  4. If you are in a crowded public place, consider the risk caused by a panicking crowd. Try to take cover where you won’t be trampled.
  5. Be aware of the dangers posed by falling power lines or broken gas mains.

…if you are in a moving vehicle during an earthquake

  1. Pull over to a safe place where you are not blocking the road.
  2. Avoid bridges, overpasses, or anything that could collapse.
  3. Listen to your car radio for any instructions from emergency officials.
  4. Don’t attempt to get out of your car if downed power lines are anywhere near you. Stay in your car and wait to be rescued.
  5. Place a HELP sign in your window if you need assistance.

It’s also good to be prepared and have an emergency plan in place that can be instigated in the event of an earthquake, or any natural disaster.

For instance, you could choose a safe place for your family to reunite in case you lost contact during the disaster, or nominate an out-of-town friend to act as a central point of contact in an emergency. You can also store important family documents such as birth certificates, passports and insurance policies in waterproof containers.

Earthquakes may not seem like a part of everyday life in Australia, but there’s no harm in being prepared for the unexpected circumstances.

For peace of mind, find out how you can financially secure your family should the worst happen.