Earthquakes are caused by movement of the tectonic plates that make up the outer layer of the Earth.
New Zealanders feel about 150 earthquakes a year. While many are small, those that are strong and close to centres of population can cause great damage and sometimes loss of life. For this reason, it's important for New Zealanders to know how to prepare for and respond safely to earthquakes.
Be prepared for an earthquake
After an earthquake, your home may be a mess, you could be without a water supply, and someone in your household could be injured. Fortunately there are things you can do to help prevent damage and injury from earthquakes.
Quake safe videos
The quake safe videos give you step-by-step information on ways to make your home safer in an earthquake.
Quake safe booklet
Easy Ways to Quake Safe Your Home gives you tips on how to prevent damage and injury from earthquakes.
What to do during an earthquake
Quickly drop, cover and hold.
- Drop to the ground (to avoid falling).
- Take cover under something strong, like a sturdy desk or table.
- Hold onto it until the shaking stops.
- Don't try to run in an earthquake.
- You're generally safer inside than outside.
Watch: What to do in an Earthquake
Learn more on the Get Thru website (Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management).
What to do after an earthquake
1. Put your emergency plan into action.
2. Keep yourself safe.
- If you're in a damaged building, get outside to a safe open place.
- If you're near the coast, there may be a risk of tsunami. Get to higher ground or move inland.
3. Keep informed.
- Listen to the radio for official advice.
- Keep the phone lines clear – only make short, essential calls.
4. Get your claim underway.
- When it feels safe to do so, think about:
- organising emergency repairs to your home
- putting in a claim
- cleaning up.
What to do first after a natural disaster tells you more.
- Get Thru has excellent information on how to prepare for an earthquake, and what to do during and after an earthquake.
- GeoNet monitors New Zealand’s earthquakes. Its website has data about recent and historic earthquakes.
- The GNS Science Learning Zone: Earthquakes explains why earthquakes occur in New Zealand, how earthquakes are monitored and how to prepare for an earthquake.
- The CDEM Director General offers advice for actions during and after an earthquake in an interview on Newstalk ZB
Te Papa's Awesome Forces exhibition shows how plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and erosion have shaped our landscape – and the lives of the people who live here.
- At Te Ara (The Encyclopedia of New Zealand) you can learn about the effects of the major earthquakes in New Zealand’s history, from the 'land-destroyer' Haowhenua in Wellington in the 15th century, to New Zealand’s deadliest earthquake in Hawke’s Bay in 1931 – and the more recent tragic earthquake in Canterbury in 2011. Te Ara also shares the personal stories of people who have experienced major earthquakes in New Zealand since 1942.
- The Quake Stories website allows people to share their experiences in their own words of the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011..