Earthquakes are most common in eastern Ontario, but can also happen in other parts of the province.
Earthquakes occur when energy is released underground through the shifting and breaking of rocks. This can cause rapid and sudden shaking of the earth which last for seconds or several minutes and can cause damage to buildings, roads and bridges, and trigger landslides. Aftershocks can also happen – they are small earthquakes occurring hours, days or weeks after an earthquake.
During an earthquake
- Drop, cover and hold — go under a sturdy piece of furniture, ensure heads are covered and hold on.
- If there is nothing to duck under, crouch in the corner of a room.
- Stay away from windows — glass may shatter.
- Remain inside until the shaking stops.
- Use stairs instead of an elevator in case of aftershocks, power outages or other damage.
- Note: fire alarms and sprinkler systems often go off during an earthquake, even if there is no fire.
- Drop to the ground in a clear spot away from buildings, power lines, trees and streetlights.
- Stay away from objects that could fall — remain there until the ground stops shaking.
- Look out for falling rocks and debris.
When in a vehicle
- Pull over to a safe place and stay inside.
- Do not leave the vehicle if downed power lines are across it — wait for help.
- Stay away from anything that could collapse (bridges, overpasses, underpasses and buildings).
- If on a bus, stay in the seat — take cover in a protected area or sit in a crouched position and ensure heads are protected.
After an earthquake
- Be prepared for aftershocks.
- Listen to the radio or television for information from authorities. Follow their instructions. Place telephone receivers back in their cradles; only make calls if requiring emergency services.
- Put on sturdy shoes and protective clothing to help prevent injury from debris, especially broken glass.
- Check the home for structural damage and other hazards. If the home is suspected to be unsafe, leave and do not re-enter.
- When leaving the home, take an emergency kit and any other essential items. Post a note (PDF) in the front window of the home. Do not waste food or water as supplies may be interrupted.
- Do not light matches or turn on light switches until it has been confirmed there are no gas leaks or flammable liquids spilled. Use a flashlight to check utilities and do not shut them off unless damaged. Leaking gas will smell.
- If tap water is still available immediately after the earthquake, fill a bathtub and other containers in case the supply gets cut off. If there is no running water, remember there may be water available in a hot water tank (make sure water is not hot before touching it) and the toilet reservoir (not the bowl).
- Do not flush toilets if sewer lines are suspected to be broken.
- Carefully clean up any spilled hazardous materials – wear proper hand and eye protection.
- Check on neighbours, if possible and safe to do so. Organize rescue measures if people are trapped or call for emergency assistance if they cannot be safely helped.
- If there are pets in the household, try to find and comfort them. When evacuating, take them to a pre-identified pet-friendly shelter.
- Place a help sign (PDF) in a front window of the home if assistance is needed.
- Be aware of secondary effects. Although ground shaking is the major source of earthquake damage, secondary effects can also be very destructive. These can include landslides and flooding.