Over time, stresses build beneath the Earth's surface.
Occasionally, stress is released resulting in the sudden, and sometimes disastrous, shaking called an earthquake.
The shaking experienced during an earthquake could last seconds or minutes. There may be several earthquakes called foreshocks and aftershocks over a period ranging from hours to weeks.
The Top End of the Northern Territory is often affected by earthquakes.
They can happen hours or weeks apart, with shaking lasting seconds or minutes each time.
Before an earthquake
To be ready for an earthquake you should:
- check that your insurance covers earthquake damage
- reduce the risk of damage or injury by:
- securing bookshelves and furniture to walls
- hanging pictures, mirrors and heavy items away from places where people sit
- storing chemicals on the lower shelf of a latched cupboard or cabinet
- putting heavy objects on lower shelves
- maintaining your home
- always have your emergency kit and household emergency plan ready to go
- learn to drop, cover and hold - drop to the ground, take cover, and hold on to something sturdy
- know how to turn off your gas, electricity and water services if they are damaged.
If you are an employer, you must make sure your workplace is safe. You must have an evacuation plan, including for people with a disability.
Possible signs an earthquake may be coming include:
- erratic animal behaviour - scared and confused pets running about, or bird calls not usually heard at night
- sudden water level changes in wells or artesian bores.
During the earthquake
During an earthquake you should:
- stay indoors
- keep clear of windows, chimneys and overhead fittings
- drop, cover and hold - shelter under and hold a doorframe, table, or bench, or get under a desk near a pillar or internal wall if in a high-rise building
- not use elevators
- not rush for doors in crowded areas
- if outside, keep well clear of buildings, overhead structures, walls, bridges, power lines or trees
- shelter from falling debris under strong archways or doorways of buildings
- not go under awnings or parapets as they may collapse
- if driving, stop your vehicle in an open area until the shaking stops - listen to your radio for warnings before moving
- beware of fallen power lines and road damage, including overpasses and bridges.
After the earthquake
After the earthquake you should:
- watch for hazards
- turn off electricity, gas and water - do not light matches until you have checked for gas or fuel leaks
- check for and treat injuries
- check for broken water, sewerage or electrical mains
- not use your telephone unless there is a serious injury or fire - try SMS instead
- check for cracks or damage to the roof, walls, or chimneys
- evacuate if your building is badly damaged
- not waste food and water as supplies may be interrupted
- collect emergency water from heaters, ice cubes, toilet tanks and canned foods
- listen to local radio for warnings and advice
- avoid driving unless in an emergency
- not go sightseeing or enter damaged buildings
- stay calm and help others if possible
- be prepared for aftershocks.