Although  we do not have records of Cairns being severely affected by earthquakes, they are still a significant potential hazard for the Cairns region with many occurring around the area since records began. The neighbouring Tablelands and Undara areas have a long volcanic history.

The impact of an earthquake depends on its depth as well as rating or magnitude from 1-10 (1 may not be noticeable to 10 causing significant damage) and proximity to inhabited areas.

We may receive little if any warning of an impending earthquake – it’s possible you may feel it before emergency services know it’s going to happen.  Earthquakes can occur at any time of day and any time of year.

What is an earthquake?

An earthquake is shaking and vibration at the surface of the Earth caused by energy being released

along a fault plane, at the edge of a tectonic plate or by volcanic activity.  Earthquakes are caused by  movement of Earth’s outer layer. The outside layer is split into tectonic plates which move slightly due to the movement of magma in the layer below. This causes plates to squeeze together, move apart and slide alongside each other.

What will happen?

  • Sometimes preceded by stillness, dogs barking, birds flying in flocks
  • Sometimes sounds such as rolling or rumbling may be heard
  • Movement  of the earth - this could be a jolt or series of jolts of varying intensities  and/or a rolling sensation,
  • Inside a building items may fall from the ceiling,  walls or out of cupboards, the water in toilets may slosh around, walls may crack if the shock is severe.

What should I do?

If you are indoors:

  • Take cover -  get under a sturdy table, bed or other piece of furniture or doorway. Hold on until the shaking stops.  Otherwise, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops.  There may be aftershocks.
  • Don’t use lifts.
  • The electricity may go out, or sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • Follow any instructions from emergency services.

If you are outside:

  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls.
  • Follow any instructions from emergency services.  If you are unsure, contact the Local Disaster Management Unit on 40443377.

If you are in a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety allows and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged.
  • Follow any instructions from emergency services

If you are trapped

  • Do not light a match or use a lighter
  • Keep as still as possible
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall  or call out so rescuers can locate you.
  • Call 000 if your mobile phone is with you and working.
Last updated: 16 June 2020