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  • Can Animals Predict Earthquakes?

    When it comes to natural disasters, early warning systems are literal lifesavers. That’s why seismologists and earthquake engineers have spent decades trying to identify early predictors of earthquakes—without much luck, unfortunately. But while seismographic technology gets fancier and more expensive, one group of researchers is taking a different tack.


    Multicoloured cute kitty in karate style jump positionFolk wisdom has long held that animals exhibit unusual behavior prior to an earthquake. The US Geological Survey helpfully reminds us that animals do weird things for lots of unexplained reasons (why, for example, does the neighbor’s cat single me out for cuddles when I’m the only allergic person in the room?). A newly published study documents just such unusual behavior in Peru’s Yanachaga National Park the week before a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Evidence of this unusual behavior came through the park's motion triggered cameras:


    "[It was] determined that the park's cameras traditionally see between five and 15 animals in one day. However, a whole week before the earthquake struck, that number dramatically dropped, with five or fewer animals spotted by any one camera five to seven days before the quake."


    Unusual indeed.


    The science seems sound: pressure built up before an earthquake sends an electric charge through layers of rock, which is released into the air at the surface, causing the ionization of air molecules. Ionization can affect serotonin levels in mammals, and while a little serotonin feels pretty good (that’s the chemical in our brain that contributes to feelings of happiness and relaxation), too much serotonin can have the opposite affect. Researchers hypothesize that animals suffering from nausea or restlessness associated with too much serotonin in an earthquake prone area will move to a place with less charged air—which is exactly what happened on camera in Peru.


    All this is fantastically exciting when it comes to earthquake prediction, but it’s not exactly practical information yet. Unless you have a convenient way to monitor your dog’s serotonin levels, you might be better off focusing on preparedness, rather than prediction—especially if you live in an area prone to earthquakes. Here are a few ways we can use our resources to plan ahead for the Big One.


    Have a plan. As with any disaster, the most crucial tool in our toolbox is a plan. Know the safest place to hunker down in your house. Know how to contact family members at work or school. Know where you’ll all meet when it’s over. And make sure kids practice the plan until it’s second nature.


    Get gear. We all know we need to have an emergency kit. If you live in earthquake country, there may be more specific items you should have handy. Consider storing things like heavy-duty work gloves and boots, dust masks, and insurance information. It’s also smart to keep shoes and a flashlight by every bed, in the event of a nighttime tremor.


    Secure your space. Many of the injuries sustained during an earthquake are not from collapsing structures, but from broken glass and falling objects. Heavy furniture—and especially top-heavy pieces—should be bolted to walls; items on bookshelves can be stabilized with putty; and heavy wall art or mirrors or shelves should never hang over beds and couches. Additionally, know how to shut off gas and water, and make sure any structural cracks or leaks are repaired.


    Be your own best resource. No early warning system is as reliable as good, old-fashioned know-how. Become an expert in earthquake protocols. Learn CPR. Head up a community response team. Practice earthquake drills. And read up on engineering codes for your area to make sure your family and neighborhood are safe.


    Have you experienced an earthquake? What are your best tips for earthquake prep?





















  • 7 Signs You're Going to be Attacked by a Moose

    While it’s true that moose typically aren’t aggressive towards people, if provoked, they can be deadly. Unlike deer (the moose’s close cousin), moose aren’t usually afraid of humans, so they won’t run away just because you’re there. Their lack of fear makes it more tempting to approach them—to pet them, feed them, play with them, etc.

    But like most other animals, moose will defend their young and their territory if they feel threatened. And even though they look slow and bored, they can run up to 30 mph, so you’re not likely to outrun a moose. If a moose attacks, they can use their hoofs and full body weight (they weigh up to 1200 pounds!) to knock you to the ground and trample you.

    Here are our tips for avoiding a moose attack while you enjoy the great outdoors.

    Signs of an Attack 

    How do you know when it’s time to back off from a moose?

    It’s important to understand that moose can get aggressive at any time of year, but there are certain seasons when they’re more likely to be aggressive. For instance, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife suggests that moose typically become aggressive during the following seasons:

    • In late spring, early summer when a cow (a mother) feels her very young calf is in danger
    • In the fall when a breeding bull (a male) is competitive and agitated
    • In the winter when they are hungry and tired from walking in deep snow

    You can also tell if a moose will become aggressive by its body language. Here are 7 signs to look for:

    1. The moose stops eating and stares at you.

    2. Lays back its ears and raises the hair on its hump, neck, or hips.

    3. Smacks or licks its lips, and clicks its teeth.

    4. Lowers its head and walks toward you.

    5. Urinates.

    6. Shows the whites of its eyes.

    7. Whips its head back like a horse.

    These are all signs that a moose may attack. But sometimes it may not even show these signs at all—they may just charge without warning!

    Practice Moose Safety

    Moose live in forested areas and around lakes, ponds, or streams in the Northern Hemisphere of the US. Their habitats are essentially ideal vacation spots for those who love the outdoors. So if you’re out on the trail in this area of the country, you’ll need to practice your “moose safety.”

    The best way to avoid a moose attack is not to put yourself in a situation where a moose may become aggressive. In order to avoid such situations, check out these tips:

    • Watch moose from a safe distance—give them their space. If you come across one on a trail, consider changing directions or backing off. Moose are somewhat nervous creatures. If they’re approached too much or too closely by people, they can become stressed and may become aggressive.
    • According to Kristine Rines, wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game and New Hampshire’s state Moose Program Director, warns that if you’re causing the moose to change its behavior, you’re too close. She says "You should be far enough away to get behind the nearest tree before a galloping horse could get there.”
    • Don’t feed a moose. When fed, moose can get aggressive if they don’t get as much food as they expect. They may even attack those who aren’t feeding it. In some states, like Alaska, it’s a crime to feed wild animals because when their aggression becomes unsafe to the public, the animal is put down (and we don’t want that).
    • Don’t walk between a cow moose (mother) and her calf. If you do happen to walk between them, back away immediately.
    • More people die from moose vehicle collisions than from actual attacks. If a moose crosses your path while you’re driving, let it cross. If you try to move the moose, it may attack your car. Drive slower at night in moose inhabited areas so you don’t hit one (a crash could be fatal to you both).
    • Keep your dog close or on a leash. Moose often confuse dogs for wolves, a natural predator.
    • If you come across a moose, show respect. Don’t make loud noises, chase, or harass the moose.

    What to do if you’re attacked

    If you recognize the signs of "moose aggression" (or it just starts charging at you), there are some things you can do to keep yourself safe.

    • Back off and run. Make sure you get behind the nearest tree, fence, or building that acts as a strong barrier between you and the moose.
    • Curl up in a ball. If a moose knocks you to the ground, curl up into a ball. It may continue running, start stomping, or kicking you. Curling up will protect your head and vital organs.
    • Don’t get up until the moose moves a good distance away. If you try to get up while it’s close, it could attack again.

    The best way to avoid a moose attack is by learning and taking preventative measures before you go into the outdoors. Add this to your survival tool belt. And while you’re at it, learn about how to survive these animal attacks as well:



    Alaska Department of Fish and Game http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livewith.aggressivemoose

    Glacier National Park Travel Guide http://www.glacier-national-park-travel-guide.com/moose-attack.html

    Appalachian Mountain Club http://www.outdoors.org/publications/outdoors/2010/learnhow/responding-to-moose-encounters.cfm

    Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/moose.html

    Moose Safety University of Alaska at Anchorage http://www.uaa.alaska.edu/upd/prevention/moosesafety.cfm

  • What to do if you get Caught by a Gator or Croc

    What to do if you get caught by a gator or croc

    Photo Courtesy of San Diego Zoo

    Two of nature’s most skillful predators are the alligator and crocodile. Why? Crocodiles and alligators will eat just about anything if given the chance, and they have all the predatory characteristics needed to make it happen. These intelligent, cold-blooded creatures wait underwater for prey to get close enough before they lurch into a surprise attack.

    Although they are both dangerous, crocodiles and alligators are not the same. They differ in appearance, habitat, and aggressiveness, which is important to understand if you’re ever attacked by or encounter one in the wild.

    What You Need to Know About Crocodiles and Alligators

    According to the San Diego Zoo, there are about 23 species of crocodilians (the scientific order to which alligators and crocodiles belong) each with distinct characteristics. As crocodilians, alligators and crocodiles have a variety of similar and different characteristics.

    Crocodile Updated  Alligator Updated

    Photos Courtesy of Diffen.com


    What to Watch Out For

    Crocodiles and alligators are extremely similar when it comes to their senses. All crocodilians have an amazing sense of smell, sight, and hearing, making them excellent predators. According to the San Diego Zoo, they even have special sense organs (Dermal Pressure Receptors) embedded throughout their skin. These sensors act as motion detectors to help crocs find prey in muddy water, where crocs happen to be most comfortable.

    Since they are most comfortable near the water, make sure to take extra caution if you plan to travel near saltwater or freshwater habitats in warm climate zones. Often, crocodilians camouflage themselves in the water, holding their breath for over an hour, and appearing to be nothing more than floating logs. It’s important to stay alert in these areas because it’s easier to avoid a croc altogether than to escape one.

    If you see a croc, whether lounging in the sun on land or floating just beneath the surface of the water, get away. Crocodilians can typically swim up to 20 mph, making it extremely dangerous for you to be in the water with them. The San Diego Zoo even states they “[move] with ease by using their powerful, oar-like tails and strongly webbed hind feet.”  On land, crocs are a bit slower than in the water, but can still run for short distances up to 11 mph.

    When a croc does catch its prey, it will swallow it whole, unlike other carnivores who chew their food. If the prey is too large to swallow whole, the croc will tear off large pieces to eat. Once they have their prey in their jaws, they toss the food around to position it so it can easily slide down their throats when they tip their heads back.

    If a croc latches onto you for a meal, it’s pretty difficult to get away. Depending on the species, crocodilian bites can generate up to 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch (a humans bite is only about 100 pounds). All of this pressure is what allows a croc to easily bite through clothes, bones, and just about anything else.

    How to Prevent an Attack

    The best way to stay safe in crocodilian territory, which spreads across the southeastern United States and to the coastal areas of south Florida, is to avoid it altogether. However, if you do find yourself near infested waters, follow these tips from PBS.org to keep yourself safe and to prevent an attack.

    What to do if you get caught by a gator or croc

    Photo Courtesy of PBS.org

    Alligators and Crocodiles:

    • Never, ever feed a crocodilian. Feeding an alligator or crocodile helps them lose their fear of people.
    • Stay alert, especially at key feeding times near dawn and dusk.
    • Don’t swim or wade in crocodilian infested water, if possible. If you have to, be sure to scan the water carefully for lurking predators that may look like floating logs.
    • Don’t clean fish or feed ducks in croc habitats.
    • Keep small children and pets away from the water’s edge. Alligators and crocodiles typically eat small prey, and nearly half of all known human fatalities were of children under the age of 12.
    • When boating, don’t dangle arms or legs in the water.
    • Stay at least 35 feet away from a gator or croc lounging on land. Although they rarely attack on land, they can move quickly—and you don’t want to stick around to see if they can actually catch you.
    • Don’t disturb babies or nests (which look like big mounds). Mother crocs guard their nests closely.

    How to Survive an Attack

    Despite making an effort to stay safe, if you travel near a crocodilian habitat, there is always a risk that you may get attacked. So what do you do if you find your arm or leg wedged between the sharp, crushing jaws of an alligator or crocodile?

    As large as adult humans are, crocodilians (especially adults) are larger. A croc will most likely try to drag an adult human into the water to tear off pieces of flesh to swallow. The most common way a croc does this is by performing the “death roll” while clamped on to an appendage.

    With its jaw securely locked around a piece of its prey, a croc will use a burst of energy to roll until the limb it holds is ripped off. The death roll is a very dangerous maneuver and can lead to serious injury, limb loss, and death.

    If a crocodilian latches onto you, the first thing you need to do is fight back aggressively before it can begin a death roll.

    Unfortunately, a croc’s jaw has so much power that once it’s locked, no amount of struggling will get it back open. Trying to pry a croc's mouth open with your hands won’t work. Their armor-like skin is near impenetrable—no amount of kicking, punching, or other fighting can pierce it—and their heads are solid masses of bone. According to Chris Packham, wildlife presenter and crocodile fan, “there are no weak points” across their bodies


    So what do you do?

    1. Gouge the Eyes! According to a variety of experts, the only way you can fight back is by gouging a croc’s eye. Bob Cooper, an Australian bush craft expert and survival skills instructor, agreed that “poking the eyes is the only possible way you can fight back – [crocs] have thousands of years of instinct telling them this is the only vulnerable part of their body and they need to let go.”

    2. Note: If a good eye-gouging isn’t possible, you can try attacking a croc’s nostrils, ears, or palatal valve.

    3. Attack the Palatal Valve. The palatal valve is a flap of skin that closes over a crocs throat, allowing them to submerge underwater without drowning—even when their mouths are open. If a croc is pulling you into the water with an appendage already in its mouth, you may be able to push the valve down, letting water flow into the crocs throat. You can try drowning the croc this way or repeatedly striking the valve to get the croc to let go (and then you run!).

    If your efforts haven’t worked and a croc begins a death roll, you should:

    1. Roll with the Croc. If you see a croc prepping to do the death roll, roll with it in the same direction to avoid causing extensive damage or limb loss. Death rolls use up a lot of energy, so a croc will need to rest before trying again. Once the death roll has been performed, use the time immediately after to fight the croc once more, going for the eyes, ears, nostrils, or palatal valve.

    Really, though, “the only way you can guarantee survival is [to] not get attacked in the first place,” said Packham. After all, no amount of fighting tactics can promise you complete safety if you’re attacked. There is always a risk in crocodilian country.


    Have you ever been attacked by a croc or other wildlife? Share your experience with us in the comments.


    Check out these articles to learn how to avoid (and survive) other types of wildlife attacks:

















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