What to do after an earthquake

Earthquake in Melbourne Chapel St Bettys Burgers rubble

RACV Staff

Posted September 22, 2021

An earthquake has been felt across Australia's south-east coast, including Melbourne, regional Victoria, and parts of New South Wales and Canberra.

Geoscience Australia has reported that a magnitude-5.8 earthquake was detected around Mansfield in Victoria's north-east around 9.15am - the largest to ever hit the state. There are also early reports of significant damage in some parts of Victoria.

Earthquake felt across Victoria

The Seismology Research Centre says the earthquake is a reminder that Australia does have earthquakes regularly, although most measure less than 3.5 and cause little damage.

Earthquakes are a sudden phenomenon, and seismologists report there's no way of knowing exactly when or where the next one will hit. There also tends to be a series of aftershocks, but not always.

Melbourne's last major earthquake was in 2014, when a 3.2 magnitude quake struck about five kilometres south of the suburb of Pakenham.

In 2012, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake hit near the town of Moe and caused about $20 million damage. It was also felt across Melbourne.

The Seismology Research Centre says earthquakes are caused by rocks breaking under stress against an underground surface called a fault plane, while a tremor is an involuntary movement of earth surface caused by stress in the underground rocks.

Victoria has numerous fault lines, including the Strzelecki Ranges, the Mornington Peninsula and the Otway Ranges.

Earthquakes often cause numerous aftershocks so it’s important to continue to monitor safety and regularly check the Emergency Victoria website for the latest emergency warnings, advice and community information. 

The rubble from Victoria's largest ever earthquake at Betty's Burgers on Chapel Street in Melbourne. Pictures: Getty.
The rubble from Victoria's largest ever earthquake at Betty's Burgers on Chapel Street in Melbourne. Pictures: Getty.

What to do in the event of an earthquake

If you're indoors during an earthquake, keep away from glass, windows, external doors and walls and anything that may fall on you.

The Victorian State Emergency Service advises the following actions:

  • Get under a sturdy table or piece of furniture and hold on until the shaking stops.
  • Remain in bed if you are there and protect your head with a pillow.
  • Do not shelter in a doorway unless it is load-bearing.
  • Do not go outside until the shaking has stopped.

If you're outdoors during an earthquake, remain outside and move away from buildings and electricity wires.

And if you're driving during an earthquake, stop as soon as it's safe to do so and stay in your car. Avoid stopping in areas with trees, under buildings or bridges or near power lines. Once the shaking has stopped proceed with caution if safe to do so.


Get under a table in an earthquake

In an earthquake, it's advised to get under a sturdy table or piece of furniture and hold until the shaking stops. Picture: Getty. 


What to do if you have damage from an earthquake

Above all else, your priority must be the safety of yourself and your family. If your home has been damaged by the earthquake or you feel it is unsafe to be in your home, evacuate immediately and call for assistance.

Earthquakes can cause significant damage to properties, particular to roofing. It's important you do not attempt to climb your roof to assess the damage or try and make repairs yourself.

Once you're safe, you'll need to contact your insurer who'll be able to assist with any number of arrangements, including:

  • Organising temporary accommodation if needed.
  • Putting in place emergency ‘make safe’ arrangements at your home and property.
  • Sending a building inspector out to assess the damage.
  • Organising a tradesperson for any repairs. 
  • Guiding you through the claims process

What about aftershocks?

If you feel an earthquake, remember to drop, cover and hold. Aftershocks can occur minutes, days, weeks, months and even years following an earthquake.

Is there an emergency that needs fixing in your home or business? 
Lodge a claim by phone or online


The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.