Triangle of Life or Duck Cover and Hold

  1. glendoncaba profile image80
    glendoncabaposted 10 years ago

    Organisations and families are likely to prioritise earthquake preparedness in the wake of the recent seismic activities in the Caribbean and the resulting human tragedy.  Well, down the pike came this Doug Copp email on the controversial Triangle of Life method.  Is it another urban legend or the best in earthquake education?

    Edited  by Larry Linn for MAA Safety Committee   

    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.

    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. There would 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, 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. They are  everywhere.   


    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 avoid 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.

    You know me, I had to check the claims.  Well, guess what?  Copp's theory has been refuted by the American Red Cross and other reliable sources.  It appears that his credibility is doubtful, and his observations were made outside of USA in regions with less strict building codes.


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