What is an Earthquake?

An earthquake can happen at any time of the day or night. They occur when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another, the surface where they slip is commonly called the fault. Intense vibrations spread out from the epicentre like ripples on a pond, which makes the ground shake and produces a loud rumbling sound.

Aftershocks always follow the mainshock; these are smaller earthquakes that occur afterwards in the same place. Depending on the size of the mainshock, aftershocks can continue for weeks, months, and even years.

Communities in the City of Port Adelaide Enfield could experience a damaging and deadly earthquake at any time, however it is not possible to predict the timing and size of an earthquake.

What is considered an Earthquake Emergency?

An Earthquake emergency is when the violent shaking of the earth is causing or has caused direct damage to buildings and property. A large number of buildings would sustain severe damage resulting in them being unsuitable for occupation. Earthquakes can cause other losses due to disruption of economic activity, stress and anxiety, injury and death, polluted water supplies, and damage to wildlife habitats.

What can I do?



The National Strategy for Disaster Resilience, developed by the Council of Australian Governments, provides high-level guidance on disaster management to agencies with a role in emergency management. Foremost in the Strategy is the principle of all of society taking responsibility for preventing disasters.

In the context of Earthquakes:

People should be aware of their own Earthquake risks and should follow advice from emergency services when responding to warnings.

Click here to see a map of the Earthquake Hazard Zones of South Australia

To increase community resilience, individuals should actively plan and prepare for protecting their own life and property. Resilience is also increased by knowing and being involved in local community disaster or emergency management arrangements, and volunteer role.

Government agencies, local governments and communities
Organisations should include earthquake risk within their Community Emergency Risk Assessment activities. This includes consideration within emergency management planning and land use planning.

Resilience is developed through land management and planning arrangements, assessment of risks, supporting individuals and communities to prepare for extreme events, and having effective education programs available. Additional prevention tasks carried out by state and local government include:

  • Assessments to gain an appreciation of earthquake risk;
  • Engaging with the community regarding earthquake risk;
  • Working with communities to plan the management of earthquake risk;
  • Providing emergency information and earthquake warnings;
  • Ensuring an effective, well-coordinated response to an earthquake event; and
  • Helping communities to recover and learn following an earthquake and build their resilience to future events

Private Industry and Businesses are able to plan for the risk of disruption, and can ensure arrangements are in place to maintain critical services.

Businesses can and do play a fundamental role in supporting a community’s resilience to disasters. They provide resources, expertise and essential services on which the community may depend. Businesses, including critical infrastructure providers, can also make a contribution by understanding the risks that they face and ensuring that they are able to continue providing services during or soon after a disaster.

State Government will work with industry to support community access to essentials, such as food, fuel and cash, in the event of a widespread blackout. Business can access tools and resources through business.sa.gov.au and the SA Business Hotline (1300 142 820) to help with their emergency and continuity planning.

The links below are designed to help businesses plan for emergency situations:

Business Continuity Plans – A quick guide to impact analysis and plan development
Plan and Prepare – State Government advice on how to protect your business

For additional information about Earthquakes please visit the following websites:
Geoscience Australia Earthquakes
SA Government Earthquake Emergency page
SAPOL How to prepare for a Disaster (PDF)


Things you can do now to prepare for an earthquake event:

Understand your risk

Find out more about Adelaide’s fault systems, the soil types in your area and see an earthquake map of Australia here at the University of Adelaide Earthquake, Adelaide at risk page

Household plans
The South Australian Emergency Management Sector encourages every household, business and farm to have a written emergency plan. Click the link to find more information on how to develop a plan

It is worthwhile having a plan for what you would do if your usual ways of getting groceries, petrol or medical supplies are disrupted for several days. Here are some suggestions of things you can do to prepare for an earthquake:

  • Put together an emergency kit - See our guide in the links section
  • Be sure to have temporary care lined up for your pets
  • Know how to turn off your utility connections
  • Fix potential hazards in your home or business
  • Investigate your insurance policy; most homeowners’ policies do not cover earthquake damage
  • Create a list of the contents in your house complete with photographs. This will be useful for insurance claims and tax deductions following an event
  • Find a fast and safe route to a place where you can Drop Cover and Hold in your home, place of work and school


The links below will help you further assess your situation and prepare for an Earthquake:
Information on how to perform a simple Risk Assessment for your home or small business
Will your home be safe in a natural disaster
How to plan for your pets

Build to Australia’s Building Codes
Australia’s building codes set out data and procedures for determining earthquake loads on structures and their components, whilst detailing minimum requirements for structures. Councils are responsible for ensuring the application of building code provisions. Please make sure you Contact Council if you require assistance from our Development, planning and building services. Find out more about what Council can do to assist you

Earthquake Notifications
Whilst it is not possible to predict the timing and size of an earthquake, earthquake notifications are provided by Geoscience Australia, who analyse and report on earthquakes within Australia and internationally. This is done on a 24/7 basis by Duty Seismologists for the purposes of earthquake warnings and to alert governments, emergency services and the general public of earthquakes in Australia and overseas.

Protect your finances