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Earthquakes – how does the truth shake out?

Published 19/06/2013

Today marks one year to the day since the Gippsland Earthquake rattled its way across Victoria.

The 5.3 magnitude earthquake hit on 8.53pm, 19 June 2012 about 15 kilometres south-west of Moe – 10km south of Trafalgar in Gippsland – at an estimated depth of 10km.

Thankfully, there was no major damage caused or injuries reported.

Shaking was felt over a wide area, though, with 850 people calling either 000 or 132 500 within the hour after the quake struck; 450 of those calls were made within the first 20 minutes.

Most of those calls were from people notifying emergency services that they’d felt an earthquake, rather than reporting damage.

While Victoria has felt earthquakes since, there have been none so large. Last year’s quake was the biggest since 2000, so it’s no surprise it generated a lot of interest.

We don’t know when another earthquake may strike. All we can do is be prepared and informed and as ready as we’re able. To that end, here are three common myths about earthquakes and why they’re wrong.

Myth:  During an earthquake, the safest place to stand is in a doorway.

False.  In modern buildings, doorways are no stronger than the rest of the structure. In a doorway, the only difference is that you’re more likely to be hit by a swinging door or running people. Get under a desk or table instead.

Myth: Earthquakes can be forecast.

False. There’s currently no method of accurately predicting earthquakes. While some large quakes are preceded by smaller ones, sometimes they’re not, or maybe the smaller ones are just small earthquakes. When an earthquake does occur, it’s not possible to know if and when another may be coming.

Myth:  If earthquakes can’t be predicted, there’s nothing I can do!

False. You can have a home emergency kit and plan prepared at your home or business to ensure you’re prepared for the worst. If an earthquake hits at night, do you have a flashlight? Do you have enough water if you’re without power for a few days? If you’re not at home when an earthquake occurs, do you know where you and your family will meet? Answering these questions can make a real difference in an emergency.

For more about earthquakes, visit our QuakeSafe page.

For earthquake information contact Geoscience Australia on 1800 655 739.

In an earthquake emergency call 132 500 for SES assistance. In life-threatening situations, call Triple Zero (000).