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Belle Yambao, Contributor
 
March 30, 2011

Earthquake Safety: “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” or Triangle of Life?

Female Network looks at two popular survival tactics for earthquakes. By Belle Yambao
earthquake_page_01.jpgThree days after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake hit Occidental Mindoro and other parts of Luzon, a quake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale struck Myanmar on March 25. As of press time, more than 60 people have been reported dead.

With the recent series of earthquakes in the East and Southeast Asian region, the importance of knowing what to do should one occur becomes increasingly vital. Two popular protection tactics are the “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” method and the Triangle of Life theory. E-mails supporting the Triangle of Life theory have been making the rounds, but so have reports of this being completely bogus. What should you believe? Which method works? Female Network takes a closer look at both in the article below.

Click on a link to go to that section, or just keep reading:


“DROP, COVER, AND HOLD ON” (DCH)

“Drop, cover, and hold on” has been an established earthquake survival method for years and is the default advice given in schools and workplaces in earthquake safety drills. According to a study published in the Journal of Seismology and Earthquake Engineering, this method tells people to do the following as soon as they feel an earthquake: “…drop down to their knees on the floor in order to maintain their balance (Drop), find an appropriate place such as under a sturdy table, [and] take shelter next to the interior walls (Cover)… [hold on] to something to maintain protection of his/her head and neck until the earth shaking stops.”

This method is endorsed by institutions like the American Red Cross and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. 

[Click here for page 2]



earthquake_page_2_1.jpgTRIANGLE OF LIFE

The Triangle of Life theory rose to popularity after an e-mail from Doug Copp, Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of a private company called American Rescue Team International, went viral in recent years. According to the e-mail extract on Snopes.com, Copp discourages people from using DCH, which he claims will result in death should buildings collapse. Instead, he talks about the triangle of life, a pocket of space or a void that appears beside an object upon which a building or object has collapsed on during an earthquake. The e-mail then goes on to explain that the bigger the object that falls, the less it gets squashed, and the larger the safe space forming beside it will be.

Anticipating where this space will be and staying in it, he is quoted as saying on Snopes.com, can prevent individuals from getting crushed in a “pancake collapse.”   He therefore advises people to curl up into fetal position during an earthquake and “[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.”

This theory has been disputed by organizations like the United States Geological Survey. Also, according to Dr. Rocky Lopes, manager of Community Disaster Education at the American Red Cross National Headquarters, the DCH method is still preferred in the US, where a “pancake collapse” is unlikely to happen and buildings adhere to strict construction standards.  The Safe Building Alliance even classifies the Triangle of Life as hazardous because it assumes that people can anticipate how their buildings will collapse and where voids will form.

According to CBSNews.com, Doug Copp is also being investigated for fraud. He collected nearly $650,000 from the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund after he reported that he had waded through “toxic soup” under the World Trade Center to look for victims, but his claim was disproved by the New York City fire chief in charge of the rescue.

[Click here for page 3]

(Photo by whologwhy via Flickr Creative Commons)



earthquake_page_02_1.jpgWHICH METHOD SHOULD YOU USE?


According to a study conducted by professors at the International Institute of Earthquake and Engineering and Seismology in Tehran, both methods provide bits of useful advice, but for different circumstances.

On the European MacroSeismic Scale (EMS-98), your building will most likely not suffer much structural damage if the earthquake's intensity is from weak (Level III) to damaging (Level VII). Unlike the Richter scale, which uses numbers to measure an earthquake’s magnitude, EMS-98 determines how strong an earthquake is depending on its effects on its surroundings. According to the British Geological Survey, an earthquake is classified as damaging when frightened people run outdoors, numerous objects fall from shelves, and cracks appear on walls, among other things. On the Richter scale, the risk of falling debris and minor damage can be likened to a light to moderate (4.0-5.9) earthquake.

For instances like this, the researchers advise using the “drop, cover, and hold on” method. As long as there is no threat of ceilings collapsing, the researchers note, the DCH method “can protect people from dangers, such as getting injured while running out of the buildings, and by falling objects or broken glasses.”

Meanwhile, if the earthquake’s intensity is heavily damaging to completely devastating (Level VIII-XII) on EMS-98 (around 6.0 to 8.0 or more on the Richter scale), the chances of your building collapsing are higher, therefore making the Triangle of Life the better option. This is because during heavily damaging and devastating earthquakes, ordinary buildings are expected to collapse. According to the study, structures made of wood, steel, or concrete are more likely to collapse in a pancake shape, so if your building is made of any of these, the Triangle of Life method will be useful to you.

In the end, though, no one can anticipate the magnitude of an earthquake, and people are unlikely to recognize how strong it is while it is happening. This means that you cannot determine while an earthquake is happening whether or not your building will fall down on you. According to the study, therefore, the quickest and safest way to react during an earthquake is to just use the “drop cover, and hold on” method. It can be easily understood and spread to a lot of people, and applies to more situations than the Triangle of Life. However, in situations where the DCH method is not possible, you may still want to try to follow the tips recommended by the Triangle of Life theory.

While knowing how to react during an earthquake is very important, preparing yourself for disaster is also essential. Check out these articles on FN:

(Screencap via YouTube)

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