Where to be during an earthquake


I run with scissors
Apr 22, 2006

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.


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 jamb 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

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.
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Mar 25, 2008
WOW. Thanks for the info. Until recently I never thought we could have an earthquake in the Washington (DC, MD,VA) Metropolitan Area and was quite stunned when I heard on the radio (WTOP) that there was one recently somewhere in Virginia.

Hopefully, I will never need to use this information and IF there should ever be a need, I pray that I remember what I've read.

Continued Peace & Blessing's...

B. Jara

Oct 30, 2005

Living in So. CA, I am very aware of the tragedy of earthquakes. This post caught my eye right away.

Respectfully, although this sounds like good advice, it appears that he is pretty much a suspected fraudster and his knowledge needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Reader beware. :tdown:

I found tons rebuttals in reference to this article, as well as his lack ethics and morals. I will post more in the next post.


American Red Cross response to "Triangle of Life" by Doug Copp

Sent from Rocky Lopes, PhD
Manager, Community Disaster Education
American Red Cross National Headquarters Recently it has been brought to my attention that an email from Doug Copp, titled "Triangle of Life," is making its rounds again on the Internet. "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" is CORRECT, accurate, and APPROPRIATE for use in the United States for Earthquake safety. Mr. Copp's assertions in his message that everyone is always crushed if they get under something is incorrect. Recently, the American Red Cross became aware of a challenge to the earthquake safety advice "Drop, Cover, and Hold On." This is according to information from Mr. Doug Copp, the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of American Rescue Team International (a private company not affiliated with the U.S. Government or other agency.) He says that going underneath objects during an earthquake [as in children being told to get under their desks at school] is very dangerous, and fatal should the building collapse in a strong earthquake. He also states that "everyone who gets under a doorway when a building collapses is killed." He further states that "if you are in bed when an earthquake happens, to roll out of bed next to it," and he also says that "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." These recommendations are inaccurate for application in the United States and inconsistent with information developed through earthquake research. Mr. Copp based his statements on observations of damage to buildings after an earthquake in Turkey. It is like "apples and oranges" to compare building construction standards, techniques, engineering principles, and construction materials between Turkey and the United States.
We at the American Red Cross have studied the research on the topic of earthquake safety for many years. We have benefited from extensive research done by the California Office of Emergency Services, California Seismic Safety Commission, professional and academic research organizations, and emergency management agencies, who have also studied the recommendation to "drop, cover, and hold on!" during the shaking of an earthquake. Personally, I have also benefited from those who preceded me in doing earthquake education in California since the Field Act was passed in 1933.
What the claims made by Mr. Copp of ARTI, Inc., does not seem to distinguish is that the recommendation to "drop, cover, and hold on!" is a U.S.-based recommendation based on U.S. Building Codes and construction standards. Much research in the United States has confirmed that "Drop, Cover, and Hold On!" has saved lives in the United States. Engineering researchers have demonstrated that very few buildings collapse or "pancake" in the U.S. as they might do in other countries. Using a web site to show one picture of one U.S. building that had a partial collapse after a major quake in an area with thousands of buildings that did not collapse during the same quake is inappropriate and misleading.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which collects data on injuries and deaths from all reportable causes in the U.S., as well as data from three University-based studies performed after the Loma Prieta (September, 1989) and Northridge (January, 1994) earthquakes in California, the following data are indicated: Loma Prieta: 63 deaths, approximately 3,700 people were injured. Most injuries happened as a result of the collapse of the Cypress Street section of I-880 in Oakland. Northridge: 57 deaths, 1,500 serious injuries. Most injuries were from falls caused by people trying to get out of their homes, or serious cuts and broken bones when people ran, barefooted, over broken glass (the earthquake happened in the early morning on a federal holiday when many people were still in bed.) There were millions of people in each of these earthquake-affected areas, and of those millions, many of them reported to have "dropped, covered, and held on" during the shaking of the earthquake.
We contend that "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" indeed SAVED lives, not killed people. Because the research continues to demonstrate that, in the U.S., "Drop, Cover, and Hold On!" works, the American Red Cross remains behind that recommendation. It is the simplest, reliable, and easiest method to teach people, including children.
The American Red Cross has not recommended use of a doorway for earthquake protection for more than a decade. The problem is that many doorways are not built into the structural integrity of a building, and may not offer protection. Also, simply put, doorways are not suitable for more than one person at a time.
The Red Cross, remaining consistent with the information published in "Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages," (visit http://www.disastereducation.org/guide.html ) states that if you are in bed when an earthquake happens, remain there. Rolling out of bed may lead to being injured by debris on the floor next to the bed. If you have done a good job of earthquake mitigation (that is, removing pictures or mirrors that could fall on a bed; anchoring tall bedroom furniture to wall studs, and the like), then you are safer to stay in bed rather than roll out of it during the shaking of an earthquake.
Also, the Red Cross strongly advises not try to move (that is, escape) during the shaking of an earthquake. The more and the longer distance that someone tries to move, the more likely they are to become injured by falling or flying debris, or by tripping, falling, or getting cut by damaged floors, walls, and items in the path of escape. Identifying potential "void areas" and planning on using them for earthquake protection is more difficult to teach, and hard to remember for people who are not educated in earthquake engineering principles. The Red Cross is not saying that identifying potential voids is wrong or inappropriate. What we are saying is that "Drop, Cover, and Hold On!" is NOT wrong -- in the United States. The American Red Cross, being a U.S.-based organization, does not extend its recommendations to apply in other countries. What works here may not work elsewhere, so there is no dispute that the "void identification method" or the "Triangle of Life" may indeed be the best thing to teach in other countries where the risk of building collapse, even in moderate earthquakes, is great.
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Apr 28, 2006
I think Irish's intent was good.

I've lived through two major quakes, including the 89 quake in California. It my experience that by the time you realize what's happening, it's OVER. The quake in China lasted THREE MINUTES and that's why we are going to see major damage and fatalities there. The '89 quake in Nor Cal lasted about 20 seconds which felt like an eternity... I cannot even fathom three minutes of shaking of the magnitude of the quake in China....

IMO you don't so much need to prepare for what's happening during the quake but for what will happen AFTER. You need to be ready to fend for yourself for at least THREE DAYS without any infastructure. That includes food, water, medical and self defense. We're ready for even longer that that, if need be. Are you?

B. Jara

Oct 30, 2005
I think Irish's intent was good.

IMO you don't so much need to prepare for what's happening during the quake but for what will happen AFTER. You need to be ready to fend for yourself for at least THREE DAYS without any infastructure. That includes food, water, medical and self defense. We're ready for even longer that that, if need be. Are you?

Oh, I know the good intent was there, and I appreciate it! I just wanted to clarify this as soon as I could so that his advice was not followed. For the US anyway...

No, I am not prepared. :wtf: This needs to be a HUGE lesson for me.....


Oct 24, 2006
Wow, tpfer's are so quick! I was going to rebut, but you ladies were soo quick. Yup, getting under a table is good advice, not bad.

In the aftermath of a big earthquake, it's a great opportunity to read about what to do in an earthquake, but the old urban legends do resurface. CNN was saying that after the earthquake, many texts, forwards, and twitter messages were transmitted with lots of rumors, including ways to predict aftershocks, all untrue.


Nov 28, 2006
I know for the last major earthquake we had in Los Angeles (the Northridge one) I just stayed in bed, with the covers over my head. I thought that if something fell I had a little more padding under me.