Tips for Earthquake Safety

Tips for Earthquake Safety

Updated 08/03/10 - I've just been shown this article regarding the post I've made below. You should read this as well as it suggest the following might not be great advice. I'll leave the original blog here for you to read and think about.


I thought this may be of interest to a few of us. We don't often get catastrophic earthquakes in New Zealand, but it always helps to know what to do. And perhaps you can pass this information onto loved ones living or travelling overseas.

Extract from Doug Copp's article on the "Triangle of Life"

My name is Doug Copp. I am the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world's most experienced rescue team. The information in this article will save lives in an earthquake.

I have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries, founded rescue teams in several countries, and I am a member of many rescue teams from many countries...

I was the United Nations expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years. I have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985, except for simultaneous disasters.

The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under its desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles. It was obscene, unnecessary and I wondered why the children were not in the aisles. I didn't at the time know that the children were told to hide under something.

Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the "triangle of life".

The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the "triangles" you see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape, you will see, in a collapsed building. TIPS FOR EARTHQUAKE SAFETY

1) Most everyone who simply "ducks and covers" when buildings collapse, are crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.

2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake... It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.

3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake.  If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.

4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on The back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.

5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.

6) Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the door jam falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed!

7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different "moment of frequency" (they swing separately from the main part of the building).  The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads - horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn't collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if the stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.

8) Get Near the Outer Walls Of Buildings Or Outside Of Them If Possible - It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked.

9) People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway... The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.

10) I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper, that paper does not compact.  Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper.

Spread the word and save someone's life... The entire world is experiencing natural calamities so be prepared!

10 comments (Add your own)

1. Hayden Sanders wrote:
Have a read of this article in the Dominion Post back in 2008. It's worth reading as it's suggests my above post might not be the best advice. I'm happy to stand corrected on this as I'd rather see lives saved.

Mon, March 8, 2010 @ 9:10 PM

2. Simba wrote:
This email has been doing the rounds for a while now. This advice has been discredited by major disaster relief organisations

See Dominion Post, 5 June 2008 and this quote from the Earthquake Commission

"John Hamilton, Director of Civil Defence says that in an earthquake the best advice is to drop, cover and hold under a table or desk, so as to protect against falling objects and debris. A widely circulated email suggests incorrectly that, during an earthquake, people should shelter next to solid items to create a protective void, a 'triangle of life'. Relying on information from unrecognised sources could put you, or your family in danger. Far better to go to and click to get some good advice on how to be safe in an earthquake and how to make your home quake safe."

Mon, March 8, 2010 @ 9:13 PM

3. Hayden Sanders wrote:
Cheers Simba. Thanks for posting that. I was thinking about pulling the post down as a result of reading the Dominion post article but I think I'll leave it with your comments and my own update at the top so anyone else who happens to visit and read the article also has the Dominion posts article as well.

Mon, March 8, 2010 @ 9:17 PM

4. Chris Wood wrote:
From reading both articles it's clear that Copp is right so far as surviving a building collapse goes. However, if the building doesn't collapse you're better off following the advice of the authorities so stuff doesn't land on your head.

Wed, March 31, 2010 @ 3:45 PM

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