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

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

When an earthquake happens.

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.

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 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

Emergencies are really expensive and can become a significant long-term burden. To ensure that your finances are safeguarded you can protect your main income source by taking out life insurance and income protection insurance.

You should also give consideration to the costs of cleaning up damaged property and replacing lost items to protect your family if the household is affected by an emergency.


Don’t try to exit a building during an earthquake as you are likely to be injured by falling debris

  • Protect yourself from falling objects in the safest place possible near where you are
  • Look for strong tables or desks that can provide shelter from falling debris
  • Look for places next to an interior wall
  • Stay away from:
  • Keep in mind that in modern homes, doorways are stronger than any other part of the house however doors can swing and injure you
  • Don't use escalators or lifts
  • If you are in a recliner or bed: do not try to transfer during the shaking. Cover your head and neck with your arms or a pillow until the shaking stops
  • Windows that can shatter
  • Tall furniture and hanging objects that can tip, fall or drop on you
  • Fire places with chimneys that can topple over and fall through the roof

Who do I Contact?
To report an emergency or life threatening situation call 000 (triple zero).

In the event of a severe earthquake, SA Police will be the control agency responsible for managing the emergency response. Such an event is likely to involve a whole-of-government response. Further information on who to contact in an Emergency can be found on our printable Emergency Contact List. Don't overload phone lines with non-emergency calls. If you must use your mobile phone do it with text.

Act Safely:

Follow advice or directions given by the emergency services.

Know that earthquakes can also cause:

  • Fires (from ruptured gas lines). If safe to do so, put out small fires
  • Damage to containers holding hazardous materials
  • Tsunamis
  • Soil liquefaction

After an event check your environment

After an event such as a storm, flood or earthquake, your surroundings may have changed:

  • Check yourself for injury
  • Check your property and utilities for damage
  • Do not wait for an official warning before moving to a safe place
  • Evacuate only if necessary if the building is severely damaged, get out straight away
  • If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise:
    • open windows
    • don't use any electrical appliances as they create a spark
    • turn off the gas at the meter or bottle
  • Take any immediate action to prevent further injury
  • Check your environment for hazards such as broken glass and objects in your way, furniture may have shifted
  • Your pets may be frightened or injured after an event. There is also increased risk of injury to their paws from debris on the ground

Stay informed (you may be part of a larger evacuation):
Listen to your local ABC Radio Station
Check the SES Website
SA Police and the Department of Transport advice on Emergency Road Closures

Dam Safety 
SA Water has a regulatory role in ensuring that water authorities, who manage water storages, address safety issues (including dam breach events) and that owners of private dams are licensed, with safety provisions included in their licences.

If a dam failure emergency was to occur, it will be managed in accordance with arrangements for the management of flooding downstream of dams within the State Emergency Response Plan Flood Sub Plan.

Town of Gawler communities need to be aware of this added hazard given the proximity of the Barossa, South Para and Warren Reservoirs to the South Para River flowing through Gawler.



All agencies will work in a swift, compassionate and pragmatic way to help communities recover from devastation. Communities will need to learn, innovate and adapt in the aftermath of disastrous events.

  • If someone is bleeding put direct pressure on the wound - use gauze or cloth
  • Don't move a seriously injured person unless they're in immediate danger
  • For life-threatening injuries call 000 (Triple zero)

Vulnerable people

Remember that hospitals, aged care facilities and schools may also be affected by the event and may need the support of the community.

Your own support group of friends, family and neighbours may not be available to you as they could have to manage their own recovery efforts.

First aid skills
In the immediate aftermath of an earthquake event people with first aid skills can become a very important resource for the community.

In the case of a large scale event; state and local government resources will be stretched to capacity and support from community members who know first aid will be beneficial for treating many non-life threatening injuries.

Find out more about how you can prepare your First Aid Readiness at the St John website.

Your Home
Before entering or leaving your property, make sure it is safe to do so, the shaking has stopped and there is no falling debris:

  • Do not turn on any lights or powerpoints until you are sure there is no electrical damage, turn the power off at the mains if you are unsure.
  • If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise:
  • Call a qualified electrician or gas fitter to fix faults before turning the gas or power back on
  • Watch out for hazardous materials which have spilt, clean them up with dirt or absorbent material
  • Stay away from brick walls and chimneys with visible cracks
  • Stay away from downed powerlines and objects in contact with them.
  • open windows
  • don't use any electrical appliances as they create a spark
  • turn off the gas at the meter or bottle

If you cannot return home

State government assistance

The State Recovery Office, part of the Department of Human Services (DHS), coordinates state disaster recovery operations in South Australia.

The SA Housing Authority provides information and support services such as food, financial assistance and emergency accommodation.

The Authority brings together a range of services and policies designed to support vulnerable people and to help build resilient communities. More information can be found on these services can be found on the SA Gov website.

This Authority also offers a large number of services designed to assist you in recovering from an emergency situation including relocation and displacement advice, information on volunteering and support to replace documentation. Find out more about how they can help you by visiting their Disaster Recovery website Disaster Recovery website.

Australian government assistance

The Australian government Disaster Assist website provides information on financial and other assistance available to eligible disaster-declared areas and individuals through:

  • the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements
  • Disaster Recovery Payment
  • Disaster Recovery Allowance.

Trade skills
In the recovery stages of an event people with trade skills can become a very important resource for the community.

In the case of large scale events; state and local government resources will be deployed to clean-up and repair operations in public areas. Support that these agencies can offer for clean-up and repair on private properties is extremely limited, because of this volunteers are at the forefront of strengthening disaster resilience in Australia.

They can assist neighbours in repair and recovery of property, clean-up and debris removal and supply distribution.

Non-government organisations and Volunteers
Many NGO’s organise volunteers during the recovery stages of a disaster and Australians often turn to them for support or advice and the dedicated work of these agencies and organisations is critical to helping communities to cope with, and recover from, a disaster.

Australian governments will continue to partner with these agencies and organisations to spread the disaster resilience message and to find practical ways to strengthen disaster resilience in the communities they serve.

If you would like to volunteer to help in any way after a large scale flooding event please contact one of the following organisations:

Town of Gawler Council
Red Cross

Continue to follow your own emergency plan and when it's safe:

  • Help others, including neighbours
  • Don't drive unless it's an emergency
  • Make use of the supplies from your emergency kit
  • Start your recovery and clean-up
  • Seek relocation support from friends and family if your house isn't safe to live in

Expect aftershocks. Each time DROP, COVER and HOLD 

Disaster Waste Management
A major event is likely to generate a large volume of debris and other waste that will overwhelm existing systems and infrastructure for waste management. This can have real and lasting impact on affected communities and the environment.

Such an event will require resources beyond local and regional capacities, because of this Council will undertake consultation and communication with representatives from State Government, Emergency Services and the Community to ensure the waste can be responsibly managed.

In a major event it would be reasonable to assume that normal collection services would be adversely affected across the whole Council area. Council will make publically available its early response plan as soon the full extent of the clean-up area is known.

Council continues to monitor and manage any environmental, human health, social, economic and/or other impacts resulting from Disaster Waste Management activities, and continuously evaluates waste management operations for future improvements. Visit NAWMA's Webpage page to find out more about waste management.

Industry and businesses

If you, your customers or suppliers are affected by the emergency event you should enact your Business Continuity Plan to speed up your recovery.

Certain types of event may cause panic purchasing which could have an adverse effect on area of your business and your ability to re-stock your products through your suppliers. Transport disruptions may also cause delays in supply.

Everything you will need to know about managing your pets in an emergency can be found on the RSPCA website

Protecting your finances
There might be financial assistance available from governments and other agencies after an emergency; it’s usually small and targeted at immediate needs. It won’t be enough to replace your home or valuables. Thinking about how you can cover financial losses caused by an emergency will save you a lot of stress and burden.

If you have insurance cover for your property and possessions, contact your insurer as early as possible.

Emergency and disaster assistance

The following contact details may be useful in the recovery stages of an earthquake:

National Disaster Assistance

  • Australian Government disaster recovery assistance hotline call 180 2266
  • Disaster Recovery Payment Can provide a one-off, non-means tested payment for eligible adults and children who have been adversely affected by a major disaster.
  • Disaster Assist Provides information on assistance for current disasters.
  • National Registration and Inquiry System - NRIS registers, finds and reunites family, friends and loved ones after an emergency. It is managed and operated by Australian Red Cross.
  • People evacuated in an emergency (or people trying to locate family or friends) can phone the Red Cross Inquiry Centre on 1800 727 077 for callers in Australia or international callers on +61 393 283991.

Long Term Recovery
There may be instances where recovery from a disaster can take longer than anticipated. Be prepared!

While no one likes to talk about it, emergencies can cause loss of life. This can have emotional and practical impact to you and those around you. Ensuring you have life insurance and an up to date Will can help to ease the burden on those left behind.

There may also be things that affect you normal daily routine such as:

School and child care closures
Enforced work place closures
Injury or disability caused by the emergency event

The following contacts are always available (not just in an emergency) to help those in need:


For further information on this topic, or if you have any questions, please call our helpful Customer Services team on 85229211 or email us at