Earthquakes can strike anytime, anywhere and unfortunately, they do so without warning. This makes it very difficult to know when they'll occur, so if you're heading to an earthquake prone zone, don't panic, there are steps you can take to stay safe. Earthquakes tend to happen near fault lines (a place where two tectonic plates meet). For this reason, regions such as Indonesia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Japan and the Americas are more likely to create cracks in your holiday.
The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) records an average of 20,000 earthquakes every year, that's about 50 a day! If we include earthquake magnitudes under 2.90, there are over a million quakes a year. Although this is a frightening figure, it shouldn’t stop you from visiting your dream destination. It just means you should be prepared to feel the earth move and know what to do if you are caught up in a terrible tremor.
Communicate your plans
It's important that your loved ones and your government know where to find you in an emergency. Register your travel plans with Smartraveller and let friends and family know of your whereabouts.
If you are visiting a destination known for earthquakes, be prepared! Carrying a first aid kit and torch around with you might not be practical, but as a minimum, carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. Phone, charger, money, passport, and travel insurance documents should be top of the list.
Be in the know
Locate the nearest Australian Embassy in advance. For destinations where earthquakes are a common occurence, familiarise yourself with local residents or the local hotel as they'll know what to do in an earthquake. Have a contigency plan in place if you get separated from your friends and family. Some countries even have quake alert apps that you can download to get 'advance warning' on your phone.
Take out travel insurance
Travellers without travel insurance are personally liable to cover any medical and associated costs they incur. Zoom travel insurance covers natural disasters and we encourage all travellers to take out travel insurance.
Drop to the ground and take cover
If you’re indoors, drop to your knees before the earthquake drops you. Ideally shelter yourself underneath a sturdy piece of furniture and hold position until the tremors stop. If you’re unable to do this, crawl only if you can reach better cover without going through an area with more debris. Try and get to an area where nothing large could fall on top of you. Cover your head and neck with your arms.
If you're outdoors, try to get to an open area free from falling debris from nearby buildings, trees and powerlines. Cover your head and neck with your arms.
Don't move until safe
It's not just the quake itself to be wary of, there can also be multiple aftershocks so don’t move to safety until you are confident the tremors have stopped.
Follow the locals
In some destinations, earthquakes are common and so the locals know what to do. Whether it’s forward planning, or post tremor, speak to some local residents to make contigency plans in case the
Beware of tsunamis
If you’re near the coast and a large earthquake occurs, there could be risk of a tsunami; in this scenario, try to get to higher ground to get away from the water as quickly as possible.
If you are visiting a destination known for earthquakes, be prepared! It’s smart to have bag ready with the essentials should you need. An emergency kit with a first aid kit, phone, charger, water, money, passport, travel insurance documents, and all your important numbers is a good place to start.
Keep abreast of updates
Always follow the travel advice from DFAT’s smartraveller website to keep up to date with any travel warnings that may be happening in your holiday destination.
Get to your designated evacuation point
Your hotel, airport or travel provider should have contingency plans and meeting points for all guests in the event of an emergency. If you’re not injured after an evacuation, get yourself to this place so you can be accounted for.
Follow the advice of the local authorities and emergency services. Local authorities bear primary responsibility for providing assistance during a crisis to people living or traveling within their jurisdictions.
Mark yourself safe on Facebook
Keep in touch with your family and friends to advise them of your safety as soon as you can. If you’ve got your smartphone on you, posting yourself as safe on Facebook is a simple and effective way to get messages to your loved ones letting them know you are ok after an event like a natural disaster.
Speak to your travel insurer
If you have been affected by an earthquake, notify your travel insurer's emergency assistance team as soon as you can.
If you’re trapped do not panic, and avoid moving too much in case you dislodge fallen items around you. Only call for help when you can hear people near you.
When you're currently travelling
Should you incur any injuries as a result of an earthquake, you should contact the emergency assistance team as soon as practicable. Your travel insurance would cover the costs for overseas medical treatment. In the event that you require emergency evacuation or medical treatment that cannot be administered locally, you would be evacuated to the nearest medical facility. Repatriation costs would also be covered if you needed to return home or in the event of your death.
If you've started your journey
And your transport is cancelled, delayed, or diverted; or your accommodation is affected as a direct result of the earthquake, there may be provision to claim for reasonable additional travel, accommodation and meal expenses. In this instance you should advise your insurer, but contact your travel or accomodation provider to make alternative arrangements.
If you haven't departed
And your transport is cancelled, delayed, or diverted; or your accommodation is affected as a direct result of the earthquake, there may be provision to claim for reasonable additional travel, accommodation and meal expenses. In this instance you should advise your insurer, but contact your travel or accomodation provider to make alternative arrangements.Your travel insurance policy may also include cover for cancellation of your journey, or the unused portions of your journey, if your accommodation provider is no longer a viable option as a result of the earthquake.
In the event of a claim covered by your policy, you must take all reasonable steps to reduce the cost of the claim and provide all supporting documentation of the event and expenses incurred.
By reasonable we mean appropriate and consistent—for example if you have been using two star or budget accommodation on your trip to date, then we advise that the replacement accommodation you seek should be of a similar standard.
You will need to submit all receipts for any additional transport, food or accommodation expenses. If you are claiming cancellation or additional expenses you will need to submit all documents showing your original planned pre-paid arrangements, along with any receipts and documents proving your new arrangements. You will also be required to submit advice from your travel provider indicating which portions of your journey were deemed non-refundable.
We will assess all claims in accordance with your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and your Certificate of Insurance. Your cover will depend on the type of plan you purchased and your particular circumstances.
Medical only policies would cover for any medical claims in regards to earthquakes, but would not cover travel delays, lost luggage or trip disruption.
Change of mind
There would be no cover if your existing travel plans were not directly affected by the earthquake or if you just had a change of heart about your trip.
Your place of residence would have to be uninhabitable for you to make a claim (i.e. the hotel not meeting expectations or a broken pool would not suffice).
Cover after the fact
Travel insurance policies do not cover claims for losses caused by something that you were aware of at the time of purchasing your policy. So, if you entered into a policy once you had heard about an earthquake in the mass media, we would expect this was done with an awareness of the earthquake.
Have more questions on our cover? Our handy FAQ's help to answer all your curly questions!