Earthquake Overview

When the ground starts to shake, will you and your family know what to do?

What is an earthquake?

An earthquake is the shaking of the ground caused by a sudden release of energy that occurs when rocks deep underground move along fault planes. Most earthquakes in the world happen around active tectonic plate margins. Australia sits in the middle of the Indo-Australian tectonic plate, despite this, earthquakes still happen in Australia. On average 100 magnitude 3 or above earthquakes are recorded each year and a magnitude 6 or above earthquake is expected every ten years.

Earthquakes can vary in strength and size (known as the earthquake’s magnitude), lasting anywhere from a couple of seconds to minutes, often followed by aftershocks that are just as strong or even stronger than the actual event itself.

Some earthquakes can trigger tsunamis, which are giant waves that can travel for hundreds of kilometres and cause even more damage.

While most earthquakes in Western Australia are relatively small and cause minor damage, significant earthquakes can happen and you should know what to do if one hits.

Did you know? 4,185 earthquakes were recorded in WA between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2022. That’s over 410 earthquakes a year!

Dangers of earthquakes

Earthquakes are one of the most dangerous natural disasters that can occur. Unlike most other natural disasters, earthquakes don’t happen at a particular time of year and they cannot be predicted or prevented.

During an earthquake, unsecured items in homes and buildings can cause injury or death and pose a serious risk to people and animals. Earthquakes can also cause significant structural damage to, or even destroy, buildings, roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.

It is essential to be aware of the dangers of earthquakes and take steps to protect yourself and your property.

Geoscience Australia identifies several key factors that influence seismic risk

Don’t think we get earthquakes in Western Australia?

WA has two of Australia’s most seismically active regions - the northwest of WA and the South West Seismic Zone. These areas are more likely to host future earthquakes. The two largest magnitude earthquakes recorded in these areas are the Lake Muir earthquake (2018) in the South West Seismic Zone, and the Broome Offshore earthquake (2019) in the northwest Seismic Zone.

Earthquake alerts and warnings

DFES works closely with Geoscience Australia, which operates the National Earthquake Alerts Centre. The Centre provides 24/7 earthquake detection, analysis, notification and advice.

If a significant earthquake has impacted the community, DFES will issue a warning on Emergency WA.

If you’ve been injured or you are in a life-threatening situation call 000 immediately. If your property has been damaged don’t wait, contact your local government or State Emergency Services to arrange for temporary repairs.

Earthquake Alert: An earthquake has occurred, and you need to brace for aftershocks.
Take Care: The immediate danger has passed but take care as buildings, roads, and utilities might be damaged.

If you have recently experienced an earthquake, you can report your earthquake experience to Geoscience Australia using the Felt Report. Earthquake effects may vary significantly over small distances due to changes in ground conditions, your building type, and what you were doing at the time. By reporting your individual experience, you are helping to inform emergency services about the earthquake impacts in your area.

How to stay informed

It’s critical that you know how to access different information sources to stay up to date during an earthquake.

During mobile network outages, radio is often the most reliable source of information. It is essential to have a battery-powered radio or another device capable of receiving broadcasts on AM/FM frequencies to stay informed in such situations.

More Information

Prepare for an earthquake

You should have an emergency kit and an action plan.

Learn more

During an earthquake

Find out what to expect during an earthquake and how to stay safe.

Learn more

Recovering from an earthquake

Find out what to expect after an earthquake.

Learn more