Step 2. Know how to stay safe in an earthquake 

Drop cover hold2

1. Practise your DROP, COVER and HOLD (earthquake drill)

You reduce your chance of injury if you DROP, COVER and HOLD during an earthquake. Most injuries and deaths during earthquakes are caused by falling objects rather than buildings collapsing.

You need to practise your DROP, COVER and HOLD to help make it your automatic response when the ground starts shaking.



  1. DROP down on your hands and knees. This protects you from falling but lets you move if you need to.
  2. COVER your head and neck (or your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk (if it is within a few steps of you). If there is no shelter nearby, cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  3. HOLD on to your shelter (or your position to protect your head and neck) until the shaking stops. If the shaking shifts your shelter around, move with it. 
Lock, cover and hold in an earthquake if you are a wheelchair user

If you have a disability or special requirement

  • If you use a cane, DROP, COVER and HOLD or sit on a chair, bed, etc. and cover your head and neck with both hands. Keep your cane near you so it can be used when the shaking stops.
  • If you use a walker or wheelchair, Lock, Cover and Hold. LOCK your wheels (if applicable). If using a walker carefully get as low as possible. Bend over and COVER your head and neck as best you can. Then HOLD on until the shaking stops.

Find information and resources for people with disabilities or special requirements ( 

 2. Think about safe places to DROP, COVER and HOLD

Identify safe spaces to DROP, COVER and HOLD - it should always be somewhere close to you, no more than a few steps away, to avoid injury from flying debris.

  • Under a strong table. Hold on to the table legs to keep it from moving away from you.
  • Next to an interior wall, away from windows that can shatter and cause injury and tall furniture that can fall on you. Protect your head and neck with your arms.
  • Not in a doorway — in most homes, doorways are no stronger than any other part on the house and a swinging door could cause more injury.
  • If you are unable to DROP, COVER and HOLD - brace yourself as best you can, and try to find a way to protect your head and neck.

 If you are in these locations: 

  • Indoors - stay indoors and DROP, COVER and HOLD, until the shaking stops. 
  • In bed - stay in bed and pull the sheets and blankets over you and use your pillow to protect your head and neck. You are less likely to be injured if you stay in bed.
  • In a tall building - don’t rush outside just because the fire alarms go off. Read advice for people living in apartments
  • In an elevator - DROP, COVER and HOLD When the shaking stops, try and get out at the nearest floor if you can safely do so.
  • Outdoors - move away from buildings, trees, and power lines, then DROP, COVER and HOLD until the shaking stops.
  • On a busy city street - don’t stay on the footpath as things might fall on you from the buildings around you. Quickly move into a building, then DROP, COVER and HOLD.
  • Driving a car - PULL OVER and WAIT - pull over to a clear location, stop and stay there with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Once the shaking stops, proceed with caution and avoid bridges or ramps as they may have been damaged. 

Don't immediately run outside

While your instinct might be to get outside, our buildings in New Zealand are designed to remain standing during an earthquake and allow people to leave safely afterwards. 

It's best to DROP, COVER and HOLD and remain indoors.

When the shaking stops, assess the situation and whether you need to go outside - every situation is different.

It is possible that the situation is more dangerous outside than inside. There could be aftershocks which may cause more objects to fall and live wires could be exposed.

If the building you are in is damaged or you feel unsafe, you will need to make a decision about whether it is safer to go outside.

When you decide to go outside, exit the building carefully by looking up and around you to check for things that might fall on you or injure you - for example, furniture and fittings, heating/cooling systems, decorative masonry, glass/windows, power lines, trees and rocks/boulders on a hillside. 


Tsunami safe zone sign

Go to Step 3: Know how to stay safe from a tsunami 

An earthquake can cause a tsunami. If you feel an earthquake that is either longer than a minute OR strong enough to knock you off your feet, as soon as the shaking stops, move inland, uphill or to the fifth floor or higher. Don't wait for an official warning or alert. 

Go to Step 3 to read about how to stay safe from a tsunami


Attend a household earthquake planning sessionFind out more at a Household Earthquake Planning session

Attend a free one-hour session to get tips on how you, your household and whānau can stay safe and get through.

The session covers:

  • What could happen to your area in an earthquake
  • How to stay safe
  • Key points for your emergency plan
  • Essential emergency supplies
  • How neighbours can help each other

Attend a Household Earthquake Planning session