Thursday, October 27, 2022

DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON – Would you know what to do in an Earthquake?


Image by


Did you know that the 20th of October was also International Shake Out Day? No, it’s not a new dance move or time to shake out your doona. It’s a huge earthquake drill organised by the US Geological Survey and its Fire and Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

We didn’t hear about this in Australia – most likely we were too busy dealing with floods, but more than 45 million people in 95 countries took part. No doubt people in earthquake -prone regions such as Japan, Turkey and New Zealand are well aware of the importance of this, but others like us think this is a low -risk event that won’t happen -until it does, just like yesterday’s hurricane in France or the earthquake that rocked Christchurch in 2011.

Australia is certainly not immune to earthquakes – in fact it has more than other mid -plate locations such as the inland USA, but apart from the one in Newcastle in 1989 which killed 13 people and damaged 35,000 homes, they have for the most part occurred in less habited places and have not caused the great devastation and loss of life which they have in more populous and tectonically active regions.

Worldwide there have been 10 earthquakes above magnitude 6 in the last month alone and 129 between magnitude 5 and 6. Some of the biggest on record have occurred within the last year and a half.


(To appreciate this map, click on the zoom icon top right)

As the map illustrates, you don’t have to live on the Ring of Fire to experience an earthquake. They can be triggered by all kinds of events such as the building of large dams, earth movements, undersea explosions or the emergence of a new volcano. An Australian structural engineer who is studying the impact of earthquakes on older buildings, says there are probably faults close to every city that we don't know about. You could also be holidaying in one of the places where earthquakes are more common - as I write one son and his family are holidaying in New Zealand. Whatever the case, it won't hurt to know what to do. 


What to do during an Earthquake

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA-NC

Most of this information comes from See their website for many more tips

DROP – this is so you won't be knocked to the floor by the shaking. Keep away from windows and exterior walls and crawl there if necessary. Don’t stand in a doorway or run outside, because you are more likely to be hit by fallen or flying debris outside a building.

COVER– try to get under a heavy object such as a table or desk. The aim is to protect the head and neck. Even if nothing is available, cover your head with an arm to prevent head injuries. Lock wheelchairs and lean forward into the brace position with your arm covering your head.

HOLD  ON – There may be after shocks

Here is a longer and more graphic version. There is also a bit more detail.

If you aren't at home when a quake hits, here are some tips from Earthquake

If you are in a shop or business, look around, avoid objects which could fall and look for cover. Even a shopping cart can provide some protection.

If you are in a car, find an open space where there are no trees, buildings, bridges or powerlines which could topple. Pull to the side and stay in your car until the shaking stops.

Don't try to reunite with children. They are usually safer at school or in childcare, but parents are often injured while trying to reach them. 

What to do before an earthquake 

 Since October is Disaster Preparedness Month, let’s also look at what we should be doing when things aren’t quaking and shaking. Countries which are no strangers to earthquakes will already have provisions in place to strengthen buildings or build in flexibility so that they suffer less damage. You can get a general overview here. Retrofitting existing buildings is more difficult, but creation of safe rooms and bracing or reinforcing structures may not be out of the question. For planners and the like, there is a good deal of information and research available here. Christchurch has never again rebuilt on the floodplains which turned to liquid during the earthquake. 

 Simple steps everyone can take 

Most of the following information is from and you can see the reasons for the various steps on their website or Google. To see this information in other languages click here


 1.       Secure loose objects

If you get an alert or a warning signal, secure objects which could fall such as bookshelves, pot plants or appliances. In the Northbridge earthquake of 1994, 55% of people were injured by tripping, falling or stepping on objects during an earthquake. Keep away from windows, televisions and glass such as shower screens. For some low cost ways to secure things, click here.

 2.       Make a plan

As for other emergencies, make a plan. Decide how you will communicate with family members and where you’ll meet up. Make sure workplaces and children’s schools and daycare centres also have them, as well as institutions, hospitality venues and hotels. Be sure to include information for elderly residents and people with disabilities. Know where to turn off your power, water and gas.

 3.     Organise emergency supplies

See the previous post for the basics. Mostly you will want some form of lighting - avoid naked flames such as candles, lighters and matches, and have a radio and ways to communicate. Have an emergency charger for your phone, batteries, water, a First Aid kit and food. Water and power supplies may be interrupted or your water may not be safe to drink.

4.       Organise important documents

That means ID, property and insurance documents so that relief can be organised quickly.

5.       Practice your safety drill

Make sure that you have made provision for elderly or disabled people and that children understand instructions clearly. Read more here.

There are also special preparations for those who care for young children such as how to protect them and do drills with them. 


After an Earthquake 


 6.     Safety Considerations

Earthquake reports that in at least one instance more people were injured after an earthquake than during. Be aware of the possibility of aftershocks and even tsunamis. After an earthquake, be especially alert to the possibility of broken gas mains and don’t use candles, lighters or matches. Watch out too for damaged buildings and fallen powerlines. If the place you are in appears sound, it may be safer to stay where you are.

7.       Reconnect and Recover

Wait for an all - clear signal before returning to an earthquake area. Reconnect with family and friends and make sure they are OK. Beware of falling debris and secure any damaged buildings before reentering them. Check for any injured people and call for help unless you have had first aid experience. Photograph any damage and help with the clean -up if you can.

8.       Share this information

Read through the list here and see if you or your organisation would like to take part in next year’s ShakeOut drill. They are usually held on the Third Thursday in October each year.

Download the Earthquake App if it’s available where you are. Check the Weather Bureau information and alerts if you are in Australia.

Since Earthquakes may be closely followed by Tsunamis, we’ll talk briefly about those next time along with how to survive other natural and not so natural disasters. Apologies for not getting back to writing about Elder Abuse either. This is due to another mystery update by Firefox or Windows, which closed all my open tabs, but I may manage to catch up on that later, especially if our forecast of another of week of rain happens. Oops! Looks like it's starting now. Better get the buckets out.



Saturday, October 22, 2022

International Sloth Day 20/10/2022 - When cuteness is a curse


-Image by Minke Wink from Pixabay

Oops almost missed it. Did you know it was International Sloth Day today or yesterday depending on which side of the Dateline you are on?

Sloths are endearing, slow moving creatures of the rainforests of Central and South America. They are not lazy as has been reported. They just move very slowly and are able to slow their metabolism right down. Until recently this has been an excellent survival strategy. They move so slowly that creatures which prey on them don’t know they are there. This has served them well for the last 35 million years or so. Their other trick to evade predators is that they attract green algae which afford them camouflage among the leaves. Though some species have evolved to be good swimmers, most rarely come down from the trees and spend most of their time hanging upside down from branches even when they give birth. Normally they are nocturnal and subsist on leaves, fruit and insects within their reach. You can read more about these remarkable creatures here or here. Did you know for example, that until 10,000 years ago there were also giant sloths and although often referred to as having  two - toes or three toes, this in fact refers to the number of fingers they have?


Unfortunately, like so many of our fellow creatures – both cute and not so cute, two out of the six living species of sloth are now under threat and on the ICUN red list, meaning that they are vulnerable to extinction. The pygmy three -fingered sloth is Critically Endangered and the maned three- fingered sloth is considered Vulnerable. This is mostly due to the usual suspects: –

·        Habitat loss  due to removal of rainforest

·         Farmers killing them because they regard them as pests 
·         Because they are hunted for their fur and poached for the illegal wildlife trade. 

The curse of ‘cuteness’

Despite their happy, friendly -looking faces, sloths do not make good pets. Even zoos have trouble keeping them alive because they have such a highly specialised diet and it is very unlikely that amateurs will be able to replicate the storied canopies and hot and humid conditions necessary for their survival. See the video below for a glimpse into this ugly trade.


If you want to know what happened next, see the longer video here

Stopping Poachers

Obviously much more needs to be done to protect sloths from poachers and to make sure perpetrators are punished. Since we have little control over what happens in their home state, border controls in recipient countries must remain vigilant and both legislation and law enforcement must be stepped up in order to make the trade less attractive. Awareness and reporting of sightings by the public are important too. You most certainly should not be cuddling them, taking selfies with them or heaven forbid, buying them yourself, because all of these simply encourage their removal from the wild. [This is important for your own safety as well. Sloths carry many parasites including ticks which could potentially be vectors for  new and exotic diseases].

Protecting and restoring Sloth Habitat

The second most important thing you can do is help to conserve their rainforest habitat as best you can. One way is to avoid rainforest products such as coffee, chocolate and bananas, unless they carry the Rainforest Alliance certified seal. This seal means the products were responsibly sourced and harvested and didn't contribute to deforestation or the destruction of the sloth's natural habitat.

You can also help by funding rainforest tree – planting and restoration. Having to cross open ground puts arboreal sloths at severe risk, but by helping to create connected habitats in Costa Rica you can help to prevent this. It will also benefit other rainforest dependent species and of course the health of the planet. Read more here. The Sloth Conservation Foundation has not yet been rated by Charity Navigator but it is run by a qualified sloth researcher who seems genuinely concerned about the welfare of animals.

Be wary of some others. At least one sanctuary in Costa Rica which originally received glowing international coverage, has been the subject of allegations of exploitation and neglect of the animals it purports to protect,  with animals being kept in cages and only rarely being released into the wild. I certainly wouldn’t donate without independent verification that the right thing is being done and it is not just a money -making enterprise, despite the cute videos.

For more ideas on how to help, click here

Let's make it a happier day for the sloths and make sure they have a future too!