Preparing for an earthquake

A road damaged after an earthquake.

Every year, GNS Science records around 20,000 earthquakes in New Zealand. Earthquakes can happen without warning and cause widespread damage. Knowing what to do before, during and after an earthquake can help you and your loved ones respond to the situation safely and quickly. Here are a few tips to help you prepare and recover from an earthquake.

Before an earthquake

  • Make a plan with your household or family so that everyone knows what to do in the event of an earthquake.

  • Practise Drop, Cover, Hold twice a year to help you familiarise yourself with the immediate action you’ll need to take in an earthquake. NZ ShakeOut day in October provides a good opportunity to practise, or when the clocks change for daylight saving time.

  • Identify safe places to Drop, Cover and Hold in each room of your home away from windows and tall pieces of furniture, such as under a sturdy table or desk.

  • Prepare your emergency kit in advance, including things like 3 days-worth of long-lasting food and bottled water (4 litres per person per day), a flashlight and any prescription medication. Keep it in a place that’s easily accessible.

  • Secure heavy furniture and appliances to prevent them from falling.

  • If you're in an earthquake-prone area, it might be worth considering adding earthquake-resistant features to your home, such a reinforced walls and foundations.

  • If possible, try to store photographs, important documents and proof of ownership for your valuable items outside your home or backed up electronically.

  • Make sure your home and contents’ sum insured and your car’s agreed value are up to date. If you’re a customer with us, you can do this online through My AA Insurance.

During an earthquake

  • If you’re indoors, drop to your hands and knees, cover your head and neck with your arms, and hold on to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops. Make sure you’re ready to resume this position for all subsequent shakes.

  • If you’re outdoors, move to an open area away from buildings, trees and power lines.

  • If you’re driving, pull over to a clear location and stay inside the vehicle until the earthquake ends.

  • Remember, if you’re near the coast and the earthquake is long and strong, get gone. There's a risk that a tsunami may follow an earthquake that lasts longer than a minute or feels strong. Find higher ground or go as far inland as possible as quickly as you can.

After an earthquake

  • Check yourself and anyone with you for injuries and seek medical help if necessary.

  • If service is available, get in touch with your friends and relatives over social media or by text message. If possible, keep phone lines free for emergency calls.

  • Look in on your neighbours and your community.

  • Put your safety first. Don’t do anything that puts you at risk.

  • Check for gas leaks. If you can hear a hissing or whistling sound or if you can smell rotten eggs, turn off the gas supply if it can be done safely. If you can’t find the source of the leak, leave the property, move up wind of the smell and contact the Fire and Emergency service on 111. Don’t operate any electrical switches and keep flames and cigarettes away from the area until you’re sure it’s safe.

  • If you see broken wires or any sparks, turn off the electricity at the fuse box.

  • If your property has been damaged, don’t try and fix it yourself. Take photos instead, so they can be supplied to your insurance provider if needed. Stay away from damaged buildings until they’ve been inspected and deemed safe by a professional.

  • Contact your insurance provider as soon as you can. The sooner you get in touch, the sooner they can help.

By taking proactive steps to prepare for an earthquake, you can help keep yourself, your loved ones and your property safe. It’s a good idea to regularly read through your policy documents (here for AA Insurance customers), checking that the details of your cover are up to date. Knowing how to make a claim will also help you be prepared. If you don’t have your home and contents insurance sorted, get a quote or contact us today.

Here are a few additional resources to help you prepare for natural hazards and wild weather:

Any questions?

Now’s a great time to review your insurance. We recommend checking your details are up to date and ensuring the policy and cover you’ve chosen is right for you and your insurance needs.

If you have any questions about your insurance, need to update your AA Insurance policies or would like a quote, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re open from 8am to 8pm weekdays and from 8am to 6pm weekends and public holidays.

This blog provides general information only and is not intended to be a recommendation or personalised financial advice. Excesses, terms, conditions, limits and exclusions apply to AA Insurance Limited’s policies. Please check the policy wording for details of cover. The provision of cover is subject to the underwriting criteria that apply at the time.

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