EXTRACT FROM DOUG COPP'S ARTICLE ON THE:
'TRIANGLE OF LIFE'
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
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. I am amazed that even today schools are still using the ?Duck
and Cover? instructions- telling the children to squat under their desks
with their heads bowed and covered with their hands. This was the
technique used in the Mexico City school.
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
TIPS FOR EARTHQUAKE SAFETY
1) Almost everyone who simply 'ducks and covers' when buildings collapse
ARE CRUSHED TO DEATH. People who get under objects, like desks or cars,
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. That position helps you 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.
Concrete slab buildings are the most dangerous during an earthquake.
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) Almost 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
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 lying in the fetal position 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.
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
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.
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