fbpx Coping with Geohazards | LEARNZ

Coping with Geohazards

Lessons from Iceland

All New Zealanders need to be prepared for geohazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami and landslides.

It is important for all New Zealanders to know about geohazards and what to do if an event occurs. Find out about the area where you live and what the local hazards are. Develop an emergency plan with your family. Put a survival kit together and regularly update it.

Volcanic eruptions

  • Save water in your bath, basin, containers or cylinders at an early stage – supplies may become polluted.
  • Stay indoors with your pets as much as possible.
  • Wear mask and goggles if you go outside, to keep volcanic ash out of your eyes and lungs.
  • Keep gutters and roof clear of ash – heavy deposits can collapse the roof.
  • Take your outdoor clothing off before entering a building – volcanic ash is difficult to get rid of.
  • Take your Getaway Kit with you if you have to leave. Turn electricity and gas off at the mains.
  • Don’t go sightseeing.
  • Don’t leave home unless advised to by Civil Defence.

After eruptions 


  • Don't let ash build up. Volcanic ash is heavy and could cause damage to roofs and guttering.
  • Light ash falls can also set in gutters and downpipes and cause problems.
  • Use a broom to get the ash off.
  • Try to stop ash getting into storm-water drains. Divert downpipes if necessary.

Furniture and Glass

  • Ash is very abrasive. If possible, clean with a vacuum cleaner. Otherwise clean by using a dusting or dabbing motion, not by wiping, which will cause scratches. Use a detergent-soaked cloth to clean glass surfaces.

Motor Vehicles

  • If possible, get motor vehicles under cover. If this is not possible, then cover the vehicle with a sheet.
  • Don't use wipers to clear ash off car windscreens - dust off with a brush. Keep car windows closed.
  • Wash car gently with warm water and detergent, rinse with cold water and gently towel dry.
  • In heavy ash fall don't use ventilation/air conditioning.
  • Service your vehicle to remove ash from air filters, brakes and wheel studs.

Electrical Appliances

Ash can cause short circuits. Don't use appliances outside during ash fall. Disconnect those affected from the mains and clean, inside and out, with a vacuum cleaner or duster.

How to prepare for an earthquake 

EQC advises people about how to Quake safe their homes: Talk to parents/caregivers about completing the following list of things to ensure your house is 'quake safe'.

  • Check that your house is secured to its foundations
  • Secure hot water cylinders and header tanks
  • Secure your chimney or replace it with a lightweight replica
  • Secure tall furniture to the wall studs
  • Secure wood burners to the floor
  • Store heavy objects low down
  • Use non-slip mats under smaller appliances and objects
  • Use plastic putty (Blu Tack) to secure ornaments
  • Push picture and mirror hooks closed
  • Check your household insurance cover

During an earthquake

  • Move no more than a few steps to a safe place, drop, cover and hold on.
  • Do not attempt to run outside.
  • If outside, move no more than a few steps to a safe place, and drop, cover and hold.
  • If in a lift, stop at the nearest floor and get out.
  • If you are in a car, the driver should pull over to the side of the road. Stay in the vehicle until the shaking stops. 
  • If you are near the coast, drop, cover and hold during an earthquake, then move immediately to higher ground when the shaking stops.

Drop Cover Hold

After an earthquake

  • Expect aftershocks and help those around you if you can.
  • Report injuries or fires to the emergency services (dial 111).
  • Put out small fires and evacuate the building if the fires cannot be controlled.
  • Turn off gas and electricity.
  • Listen to the radio for advice and information.
  • Do not go sightseeing and stay out of damaged buildings.


  • If a landslide occurs in your area, evacuate immediately.
  • Do not return to your home until you are told it is safe.


If you live on the coast and you feel an earthquake that lasts longer than a minute or is so strong that it is difficult to stand up then you should move to higher ground immediately. Also if you are at the beach and see the water quickly recede move to higher ground. You may only have a few minutes before a tsunami arrives.

If the tsunami is coming from a long way away, then you probably will not feel an earthquake but warnings will be issued over the radio. You may have over ten hours to prepare your evacuation.

Ready for a quiz? Try the 'Coping with Geohazards' interactive activity.

Audio Māori keywords: 

Work with your family to create your own emergency plan and survival kit.

Are you prepared for an emergency and would you know what to do to stay safe? Image: Civil Defence.

This is a great emergency plan to work through with your whānau. Image: LEARNZ.

Wherever you are, Stop Drop Hold if there is an earthquake. Image: LEARNZ.

It is amazing just how much you can fit in a small bag for a survival kit. Do you have your kit ready? Image: LEARNZ.

Do you know where you would need to evacuate to if there was a tsunami? Image: LEARNZ.

Do you know how to make your home safe during a natural disaster? Visit this EQC site to find out more. Image: EQC.

Lessons from Iceland