Indonesia quake scare shows evolution of response preparedness

Goats walk amid debris from the devastating tsunami of 2004.On Wednesday, a large 8.6 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia triggered widespread panic as residents feared a repeat of 2004. Nearly 230,000 people and an untold number of animals lost their lives back then after the 9.1 magnitude quake spawned a deadly tsunami. I arrived on the ground soon after to assist a team with victim identification for almost a month. I listened to survivors tell tales of how they ‘followed the animals to higher ground knowing that they had a sense for danger and survival.’ I keep that lesson close to my heart as I read of new advancements in disaster warning systems – we have come so far yet still need to keep working to improve our response to help those in danger.

Wednesday’s incident was a good example of how the tsunami warning systems and advanced response protocols have evolved during the last seven years.

Luckily, this time around only a few people were reported injured and Indonesians can slowly go back to life as usual.

These early detection warning systems have given people a degree of confidence but technology only gets us so far.

The island of Sumatra is located in a highly seismic area sitting on top of the Great Sumatran Fault and it’s not a matter of if but when the next big one will strike. Training local groups to respond quickly and efficiently in the wake of disasters is key to improving the odds of survival.

In 2005, just a few months after the deadly tsunami, The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), conducted a seven-day training for Indonesian vets in emergency animal care and how to cope with floods, fires, disease outbreaks and other wildlife emergencies.

Three years later, IFAW went back to Indonesia and trained vets, students, NGO’s and government representatives from across Indonesia and the Philippines on how to rescue animals in disaster situations.

IFAW has rescued animals following volcano eruptions, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, wildfires and the tsunami in Indonesia in the past few years, but our disaster preparedness work has been equally important.  Increasing awareness through public education is a strong mission of the IFAW Disaster Response Team.  We continue to build lasting relationships with local organizations to increase disaster response capacity knowing that saving animals will in so many ways, save people.

Indonesia is better prepared today than it was in 2004 to save the lives of animals. While we certainly hope they never have to put those skills to work, we are confident that more lives will be saved by the marked improvement in technology and relentless pursuit of preparedness. 

A disaster can hit anytime and anywhere, to learn how you can take simple steps to safeguard the lives of your animal companions, click on this link now.


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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy