Earthquake Safety


> Edited by Larry Linn for MAA Safety Committee brief on 4/13/04.

> 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


> 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 (UNX051 -UNIENET) for two years. I have

worked at

> every major disaster in the world since 1985, except for


> disasters.

> In 1996 we made a film which proved my survival methodology to be


> The Turkish Federal Government, City of Istanbul, University of


> Case Productions and ARTI cooperated to film this practical,

scientific test.

> We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten


> did "duck and cover," and ten mannequins I used in my "triangle

of life"

> survival method After the simulated earthquake collapse we

crawled through the

> rubble and entered the building to film and document the

results. The

> film, in which I practiced my survival techniques under directly


> scientific conditions, relevant to building collapse, showed

there would have

> been zero percent survival for those doing duck and cover. There


> likely have been 100 percent survivability for people using my

method of the

> "triangle of life." This film has been seen by millions of

viewers on

> television in Turkey and the rest of Europe, and it was seen in

the USA, Canada and

> Latin America on the TV program Real TV.

> The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in

Mexico City

> during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under their 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 it is, and less it will compact.

The less

> the object compacts, the larger the void, and the greater the


> that the person 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.

> I trained the Fire Department of Trujillo (population 750,000)

in how to

> survive, take care of their families, and to rescue others in


> The chief of rescue in the Trujillo Fire Department is a professor

at Trujillo

> University. He accompanied me everywhere. He gave personal

testimony: "My

> name is Roberto Rosales. I am Chief of Rescue in Trujillo. When I

was 11

> years old, I was trapped inside of a collapsed building. My

entrapment occurred

> during the earthquake of 1972 that killed 70,000 people. I

survived in the

> "triangle of life" that existed next to my brother's motorcycle.

My friends

> who got under the bed and under desks were crushed to death [he

gives more

> details, names, addresses etc.]..I am the living example of the

"triangle of

> life". My dead friends are the example of "duck and cover".

> 1) Everyone who simply "ducks and covers" WHEN BUILDINGS


> crushed to death -- Every time, without exception. People who

get under objects,

> like desks or cars, are always crushed.

> 2) Cats, dogs and babies all naturally often curl up in the

fetal position.

> You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival


> 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. The reason is simple: the 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


> 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,


> 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 while you are watching television

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) Everybody 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


> 7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different "moment


> frequency" (they swing separately from the main part of the

building). The stairs

> and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other


> structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get

on stairs before

> they fail are chopped up by the stair treads. They are horribly


> 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

> screaming, 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


> 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, says the author. Everyone killed would


> 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