What to do in an earthquake

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This article was first published in September 2021 and has been updated and republished after the earth tremor in Victoria on Sunday, May 28.

This is advice issued by the Victorian SES on what to do in an earthquake and what to be aware of in the aftermath.

Parts of Melbourne were rattled late on Sunday night by a short, but relatively powerful earth tremor. Geoscience Australia reported a magnitude 3.8 quake near Sunbury on Melbourne’s north-west fringe, at an estimated depth of three kilometres.

If you feel an earthquake

  • Drop to the ground.
  • Take cover by getting under a sturdy table or another piece of furniture.
  • Hold on until the shaking stops.

If you become trapped under debris

  • Do not use lighters or matches to create light.
  • Stay as still as possible and cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Shout only as a last resort.

If an aftershock occurs, stay safe by taking the following actions


  • Drop, cover under a sturdy table or piece of furniture and hold on.
  • Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it’s safe to exit.

In an elevator

  • Drop, cover and hold on.
  • When the shaking stops, try to get out at the nearest floor if you can safely do so.


  • Pull over to a clear location away from buildings, trees, overpasses and power lines
  • Stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops
  • Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps that may have been damaged.


Move away from buildings, trees, street lights, and power lines, then drop, cover, and hold on.

At the beach or near the coast

Drop, cover, and hold on, then move to higher ground immediately in case a tsunami follows.

Near mountains, hills, slopes or cliffs

Be alert for falling debris or landslides.

When an earthquake shook Melbourne in September 2021, power and telephone services were lost in some areas.

The State Emergency Service said at the time that unless buildings were obviously damaged during the quake, they should be safe to return to.

“If you are in a building, it is safe to stay in there. You are safe in a multi-storey building. They will be built to be safe for it,” said spokesman Tom Szczupak.

“Most buildings, you are safer if you stay where you are until the shaking stops. If you are outdoors, the advice is to move away from buildings, streetlights and powerlines during the quake.”

After the quake finished, people should stay away from damaged buildings until they had been checked over by emergency crews.

“If electricity, gas and water supplies are disrupted, ensure your properties’ utilities are checked by a tested and licensed technician before you use them,” Mr Szczupak said.

“When cleaning, protect your health and safety with strong boots, gloves protective clothing and wash your hands and clothes regularly.”

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