Where to Go During an Earthquake

April 25th, 2011By Category: Uncategorized

On March 11th, I was sitting at my desk in Yokohama when the earthquake struck. I immediately ran to the front door and stationed myself there with the door open, believing that was a safe place to be. I wondered to myself what would happen if the ceiling above me collapsed. I found out a couple of weeks later that standing in the doorway was one of the last things I should have done.

A friend of mine in Los Angeles sent me an article by Doug Copp. I read it and was very surprised. I went to YouTube and watched videos and started checking around.

Yes, I found more websites that refuted Doug Copp’s “Triangle of Life” principles, but then again, everything is and always has been refuted and always will be. This just seems like common sense. I invite you to think and judge the information for yourself.

Personally, I am sold that he is right and that the “Duck and Cover” principle is horrifically incorrect and dangerous. I also found out that standing under a doorway or heading for the stairs were three of the last things one should do to survive in a collapsed building. I started asking my students what they would do and of course, everyone said that they would duck under the table.

Recently, I went to parents’ day at my daughter’s elementary school and a small earthquake happened. All of the children ducked under their desks. I cringed at the thought, because I remembered the poor children in Mexico who had all been “crushed to the thickness of their bones” under their desks from the weight of the floors and ceiling above them. That lit a fire under me. I got on the Net and copied this document, got it translated and started going to the local shops in my neighborhood and passing out the information that I had.

Everyone was very surprised, but they also agreed that it made no sense to go under a table or a desk and that the idea of the “Triangle of Life” made perfect sense. I kept hearing people say, “This seems to be such common sense. Why didn’t I ever notice it?” All of the shop owners have agreed to give their customers this information or to at least post it on their walls for interested customers to read. You can read the article below:

(The Triangle of Life)

Remember that stuff about hiding under a table or standing in a doorway? Well, forget it! This is a real eye opener. 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, and 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. 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 – NOT under 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.


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 bed, 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 door jamb 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. The entire world is experiencing natural calamities so be prepared! ‘We are but angels with one wing, it takes two to fly’

In 1996 we made a film, which proved my survival methodology to be correct. The Turkish Federal Government, City of Istanbul, University of Istanbul Case Productions and ARTI cooperated to film this practical, scientific test. We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten mannequins 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 observable, scientific conditions, relevant to building collapse, showed there would have been zero percent survival for those doing duck and cover.

I hope that you never need to use this information. But it is better to be prepared than not, right? Japan is not a dangerous country and will recover from this. I know a lot of people are and have gone back to their hometowns and, or countries, but for those of us who are here for the long haul, the best we can do I believe, is to follow the “Triangle of Life” guidelines.

They make much more sense than ducking under tables and desks that will be compacted by the weight of the ceiling and floors above us. The “Duck and Cover” idea is to protect you from falling objects. But most objects that are going to fall on you are not necessarily going to kill you.

They will injure you, maybe even seriously, but the floors and the ceiling above you will do the utmost worst to you and your loved ones, because of the crushing weight that cement can produce. A short, densely packed object will save you from the weight of cement if you can get down low enough. Not your refrigerator or bookcase, but your bed, desk, or piano even. Lying on your side next to such an object will give you much more space to survive the “crush” than squatting under a table or desk that will compact enough to crush you if you are under it, but not compact enough to let you be crushed by what is above it. We did a test. The average adult female sitting on the ground with her head bowed will be approximately 65 centimeters tall but lying down on her side will be only around 33 centimeters high. That is almost half! A child of course, will have more of a chance, going from 58 centimeters to a mere 22. You do the math.

Should you get down as low as you can to avoid being crushed or get under an object and hope that your height and the object of which you are under, does not work against you? You may actually be part of the system that assists in stopping gravity from coming down further, but you will not be able to know about it. You be the judge. Be part of the system that stops gravity or live! Furthermore, even when you are outside or walking through the station, I want to encourage you to find places that have short, densely packed objects that you can lie down next to, that will protect you from the “crush” when an earthquake strikes. Stay educated and be prepared. Of course, I would not advocate lying down on the ground next to an object of which was located near a piece of furniture that had a TV, books or dishes on top of it that would fall on top of you, but that is just common sense. If one does such a thing, of course the result could be quite dangerous. Hopefully, none of us will need to use this very important information. As for me, I will not be ducking under the table and begging that the table holds up anymore and seeing stars when it doesn’t. I will be looking for another shape: A potential triangle. If you agree with this information please pass it on to as many people as possible. You may save a life.


Author of this article

Eric Carroll

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