Charlotte Laws, Ph.D.
Member of the
 Greater Valley Glen Council
21781 Ventura Blvd., Suite 633
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Tel.  818.346.5280
Fax.  818.985.1690

Dr. Charlotte Laws - Councilperson Valley Glen

Earthquake Survival Tip
(It Could Save Your Life!)

My name is Doug Copp. I'm 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 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 Mitigati on (UNX051 -UNIENET) for two years. I 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 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. 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 and stronger the object, the less it compacts. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who uses this void for safety will be uninjured.

The next time you see collapsed buildings on television, count the "triangles" you see formed. They're everywhere. It's the most common shape you 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 earthquakes. 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'm the living example of the "triangle of life". My dead friends are the example of "duck and cover."

1) Avoid "duck and cover." People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are always crushed.
2) Like cats, dogs and babies, who often curl up in the fetal position, you should, too in an earthquake. It's a natural safety/survival instinct You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to a large, heavy, bulky object, like a sofa, 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, because wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If a wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings break into individual bricks. Bricks cause many injuries, but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.
4) If you're 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 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're watching television and you can't 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'll be crushed by the ceiling above. If the door jam falls sideways you'll be cut in half. In either case, you're dead!
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 the 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. They're horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn't collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are the most likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if they don't collapse during the earthquake, they may do so later when overloaded with screaming, fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is undamaged.
8) Whenever possible, Get Near the Outer Walls Of Buildings Or Outside Of Them - It's much better to be near the outside of a building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outer 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. All the victims of the San Francisco earthquake who stayed inside of their vehicles were all killed. Everyone could have survived if they had been able to get out and sit or lie next to their vehicles, says the author. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for those where columns fell directly across them.
10) While crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices, and other offices with lots of paper, I discovered that paper doesn't compact. Large voids were also found surrounding stacks of paper.