How to prepare for and handle an earthquake in Croatia

Croatia earthquake preparedness kit
Image by Auto Know

UPDATED: 12.9.2023.

Croatia has a major fault line that extends from Split in the south to Karlovac in the north. As a result, Croatia experiences earthquakes from time to time. 2020 was a very prolific year for earthquakes in Croatia, especially in the northern part of the country in the area surrounding Zagreb.

Given the risk of earthquakes in Croatia, we should all be prepared in case we experience one. It is important to know how to prepare, and how to respond in case an earthquake does occur while you are in Croatia.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

How to prepare for and handle an earthquake in Croatia

Facts about earthquakes in Croatia and elsewhere

Here is what you should know about the earthquakes:

  • Earthquakes do not kill people. Buildings and debris do.
  • Earthquakes can and will happen. Their strength can be predicted, but the exact time of occurrence cannot be predicted.
  • It is necessary to educate the community and train emergency response teams constantly.
  • The best way to prepare is with good planning. You can plan by having a preparedness kit as well as with proper construction that is built to withstand earthquakes.
  • Not all buildings in Croatia are built to withstand earthquakes. Croatia did not start earthquake-proofing buildings until the 1960s after a 6,1 earthquake rocked Macedonia, killing 1.070 people. After the war that broke up Yugoslavia in the 1990s, speculators moved into Croatia and the rest of the Balkans to build cheap housing en masse as the region transitioned from communism to capitalism. Check if your building was built to withstand earthquakes. If it was not, then you will need to take extra precautions.

What to do before an earthquake in Croatia

Even though the exact time of an earthquake cannot be predicted, there are steps you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your property.

Here is what you can do:

  • Repair faulty electrical installations, gas, and plumbing pipes.
  • If possible, install flexible gas and water pipes to avoid joints cracking.
  • Keep large and heavy objects on lower shelves. Fasten cabinets, shelves, mirrors, and picture frames to the wall.
  • Disable the wheels or moveable parts of furniture (TV stands, computer desks) and technical equipment (storage heaters, air conditioners).
  • Keep bottles, glass, porcelain, and other fragile items in low-closed cabinets. Locks will prevent the contents from falling out of the closet.
  • Find a “safe” place in each room. There is a lot to consider when finding a safe place, so we have a separate section for this. Jump to it by clicking here.
  • Prepare an emergency kit. Click here to see what it should include.
  • Define and agree on 2 meeting places with your family members and friends. The first should be close to your home in an open area, and the second should be outside of the neighborhood, also in an open area, in case you cannot return home. Everyone in your family or immediate circle should know the place and address of the meeting point.

How to locate a safe place in your Croatian home

When an earthquake occurs, finding or creating a safe void is essential. Creating a safe void will prevent you from being crushed. You should also curl into the fetal position to protect your body.

Locations that can provide safety:

  • Bathtubs
  • Beside furniture
  • Being outdoors in an open area
  • Beside a car
  • Against outer walls

Locations that are not safe:

  • Under furniture
  • In doorways
  • Against inner walls

This article provides detailed explanations of how to find safe places during an earthquake, as well as what not to do.

What to do during an earthquake in Croatia

  • Move minimally during an earthquake.
  • Try to get to the nearest safe place as soon as possible.
  • Stay in the house until the earthquake stops. Once it is over, put on your shoes and go outside calmly into an open space away from buildings.
  • Try to bring warm clothes and blankets, but only if it is safe to do so.
  • Bring your preparedness kit, but only if it is safe to do so.
  • Bring documents, money, and medicine for sick family members.
  • Before leaving the house, be sure to try to turn off the gas, electricity, and water.

[Read: Guide on setting up utilities for a property in Croatia]

If you are indoors during an earthquake

Hide in a safe place where you can create a void, to prevent being crushed. We have more details on where to hide in the above section.

Stay away from glass, windows, exterior doors, exterior walls, and anything that might fall, such as lighting fixtures or shelves.

If you are in bed when an earthquake starts, roll off the bed and onto the floor. Stay close to the bed. Wait and keep your head protected with a pillow.

Stay indoors until the ground vibration has completely stopped, and then go outside and find an open space away from buildings. Most injuries during an earthquake occur when people run out into the open in a panic. People are most often injured by falling objects or broken installations (building materials, window or door glass, electrical cables, gas pipes, etc.)

Never use an elevator.

If you are outdoors during an earthquake

Stay outdoors. Get away from buildings, light poles, trees, or anything that can fall.

If you are in a vehicle during an earthquake

  • Stop quickly but safely and put on the emergency brake.
  • Get out of your car and lie down next to it. This will create a safe void.
  • Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and light poles.
  • Be very careful. The earthquake may have damaged roads, overpasses, or bridges.
  • Park the vehicle in an open area so that it does not obstruct the passage of larger emergency vehicles. Your vehicle must not interfere with the use of hydrants.

If you are under rubble during an earthquake

  • Do not light matches or lighters.
  • Reduce movement to a minimum.
  • Cover your mouth with a tissue or piece of clothing.
  • Stay calm and tap lightly on the pipes or walls so rescuers can find you. Use a whistle, if you have one. Don’t shout if you don’t have to, as shouting can cause you to inhale a dangerous amount of dust.

A leaflet from the city of Split with instructions for residents and tourists in case of an earthquake is available in Croatian and English here.

What to do after an earthquake in Croatia

Be prepared for the ground to shake again. Subsequent earthquakes are weaker than the main impact, but they are dangerous because they can cause additional damage to already damaged buildings. It is safest to stay outdoors until it is determined which buildings are safe to reenter.

Before leaving your house, put on your shoes.

Stay calm and patient. Examine the injured, provide first aid to the wounded, and inform the emergency services. If you have a radio, use it to get the latest news and instructions on what to do next.

Watch for warning signs carefully. Competent services provide information through public media, usually HRT. If an evacuation is declared, follow the instructions.

[Read: HRT (HTV): Croatian public television and their TV channels]

Take care of the pets.

Watch out for construction machinery that may be used to clean up building debris.

If you are stuck in a building, in a car, or under rubble and need help, you can yell “Spasi me!”, which means “Save me!”, or “Upomoć!”, which means “Help!”.

How to make an earthquake preparedness kit

Everyone should have a disaster survival kit in their home, just in case. It is important to be prepared for earthquakes, as well as flooding, wildfires, blizzards, and tornadoes – all of which are possible in Croatia.

Your disaster preparedness kit should contain small versions of the items listed below. They should be stowed in a waterproof bag or backpack. This kit should be kept in a safe and easily accessible place.

What to include in your kit:

  • Important telephone numbers
  • First aid kit
  • Spare battery lamp
  • Radio with spare batteries
  • Spare glasses or lenses
  • 6L water pack in the trunk of the car
  • Canned and non-perishable food
  • Can opener
  • Food and sweets with a longer shelf life
  • Medicines (for chronic patients)
  • Copies of all important documents, ID cards, and insurance policies
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Spare house and car keys
  • Supplies for personal hygiene
  • Pen and block of paper
  • Pocket knife and whistle
  • Matches or lighter
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Spare clothes

Croatian government earthquake web site

The Croatian government has launched a web site with the latest information on earthquakes. It contains all information on earthquakes in Croatia and how to get help.

The site contains information about donations, who to contact to report the damage, how to request the inspector’s arrival, how to get a mobile house or container, and information on volunteering and other help.

This new earthquake web site is available here.

Information on the site is structured into these categories:

  • Information
    • Organizirani smještaj (organized accommodation)
    • Pojedinačni smještaj (individual accomodation)
    • Centri za preuzimanje potrepština i hrane za životinje (centers for taking supplies and animal feed)
    • Lijekovi (medicines)
    • Psihološka pomoć (psychological help)
    • Zbrinjavanje životinja (animal care)
    • Električna energija – voda – telekomunikacije (electricity – water – telecommunications)
    • Evidentiranje osoba koje su napustile mjesto prebivališta/boravišta (registration of people who have left the place of residence/stay)
    • Stanje robnih zaliha (state of commodity stocks)
    • Kontakt e-mail adrese (e-mail addresses)
  • Vijesti (news)
  • Aktivnosti vlade (government activities)
  • Preporuke za postupanje volontera (recommendations for volunteers)

Emergency numbers in Croatia

If there is an emergency, then you should immediately call 112.

Below are other important numbers for Croatia that you can use in urgent situations:

  • 192 – Police
  • 193 – Fire Brigade
  • 194 – Ambulance
  • 195 – Search and Rescue if at sea
  • 1987 – Road Assistance

You can see a full list of emergency numbers for Croatia here.

View our other helpful articles

Letak o potresu by Ured za upravljanje u hitnim situacijama
Što napraviti za vrijeme i nakon potresa by
Triangle of Life – Earthquake Survival Tips by Snopes by Stožer civilne zaštite

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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