Drop, Cover, and Hold On...

Recent events have showcased the increasing role that Social Media tools are playing in delivering nearly instantaneous widespread distribution of news and information to the masses.  From igniting and organizing citizen revolt in Egypt to supplying astounding images and vital communication links from the recent tragedy that has struck the island nation of Japan.  Information is being delivered at lightning speed – however not all information is valid yet is still effectively spread around the globe with the same unprecedented rapid rate of speed.

“Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean its true” has never been more applicable than when considering the recent viral email being distributed in the wake of the New Zealand and Japanese earthquakes expounding the virtue of adopting the controversial “Triangle of Life” method to survive an earthquake.  The theory holds that when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside tends to crush these objects, but the remaining height of the object acts as a kind of roof beam over the space or void next to it, which will tend to end up with a sloping roof extending out from it. It is this space that self proclaimed rescue expert Doug Copp terms the triangle of life. The larger and stronger the object, the less it will compact; the less it compacts, the larger the void next to it will be. Such triangles are proclaimed to be the most common shape to be found in a collapsed building and offer the best protection for individuals. 

Sounds reasonable, however, the email warns the reader that most everyone who simply resign to  'ducking and covering' when a building collapses are crushed to death and that people who get under objects, like desks or cars, are also crushed. This encourages earthquake victims to dispose of conventional wisdom and training of duck, cover and hold, to instead seek out areas which offer a triangle of life space.  The  major fault of this wisdom is that a) this fails to consider that the “Drop, Cover and Hold on” method is a US based recommendation per US building codes where buildings virtually never ‘pancake’ b) the majority of individuals who suffer from injury during an earthquake are caused from objects and/or debris falling on them. During major quakes, often times heavy objects may shift around or topple over – thus removing the probability of providing any triangular spacing for protection and instead can end up seriously injuring the individual instead of protecting them! Sheltering under a table is still the best option to help prevent injury from falling debris.

Although it is an unfortunate and devastating event for communities to endure the effects from major seismic activity, it also should serve as a reminder and opportunity for others living in earthquake prone regions such as our own to become better prepared for when earthquakes strike.  Please don’t let this opportunity pass by without taking necessary action now and please be sure to reference only reputable agency websites as your valid source of information.  

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