Australia does not typically experience large earthquakes and on average only experiences a single magnitude 5 (or greater) event each year. Understanding whether you are in an earthquake prone area is important so that you can take measures to reduce the potential impacts and know what to do during a disaster.

What is an earthquake?

Earthquakes are the vibrations caused by rocks breaking under stress. The underground surface along which the rock breaks and moves is called a fault plane. Depending on the size of the earthquake, strong and potentially destructive ground shaking may occur up to tens or even hundreds of kilometres from an earthquake epicentre.

Understand your risk

University of Queensland research indicates that Queensland’s highest earthquake hazard areas are located along the populated eastern coast and near offshore regions. Earthquakes with magnitudes of less than 3.5 seldom cause damage. The two largest recorded earthquakes in Queensland were Gladstone in 1918 with a magnitude of 6.3, and Gayndah in 1935 measuring a magnitude of 6.1.

Damage and impact

The impact of earthquakes is dependent on their scale as outlined below

Magnitude Intensity and impacts
2.5 or less Usually not felt, but can be recorded by seismograph
2.6 to 5.4 Often felt, but only causes minor damage
5.5 to 6.0 Slight damage to buildings and other structures
6.1 to 6.9 May cause a lot of damage in very populated areas
7.0 to 7.9 Major earthquake, serious damage
8.0 or greater Great earthquake, can destroy communities near the epicentre

Earthquakes can trigger secondary events such as landslides, tsunamis and fires caused by downed power lines and ruptured gas mains.

Earthquake damage
Buildings damaged by earthquake
Road damaged by earthquake

Steps to reduce the impact of earthquakes

Take the following steps to reduce your risk before an earthquake.

Close up of family checking emergency plan
Make a household emergency and evacuation plan.
Family and JT packing emergency kit
Pack your household emergency and evacuation kits.
Johnathan Thurston
Check with your insurer that your home and contents is covered in the event of an earthquake.
Pier on beach with stormy sky
Contact your local council to see if earthquakes have ever occurred in your area and what damage resulted.
Truck on flooded road
Bookmark alerts and warnings services to stay informed of earthquake activity in your area.
What to do during an earthquake
DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops.
Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow.
Do not use a doorway except if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you.
Do not use the elevators. Do not take shelter near any glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall.
Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside.
If outdoors, stay there. Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.

Find out more and Get Ready

Check out these other pages and resources to help you Get Ready.