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New Earthquake Safety Survival Plan

Finding the Void during an Earthquake can save your life!

Finding the Void during an Earthquake can save your life!

What We Learned About Earthquake Survival in School

"Earthquake Safety - Finding the Void in Earthquake Survival"

When I was in school, many, many years ago, we had weekly disaster survival drills for fire, earthquake and even the Nuclear Bomb. But, when I look back to those safety techniques, I must say, I wasn't safe at all. Other than the absurd tactic of covering my head with my arms and getting under my desk should an atom bombed be dropped on us, the earthquake safety drills had to be the worst.

Surviving Powerful Earthquakes

The power of an earthquake can shake a room to pieces, causing debris to fall from everywhere, and walls to crumble and ceilings to collapse under the stress of all of that plate shifting. Standing in a doorway has long been the "right" response to defending yourself against the events surrounding an active earthquake encounter. I have recently been reading some new and modern ideas about earthquake survival, and what is being said makes me start to believe that just about everything I learned in school regarding earthquake safety, has been wrong!

Are You Ready For the Earthquake Called, "The Big One"

To be really ready for "the big one" that we Californian's and the Japanese people are always waiting for, a few revisions to the old school rules may be in order. As you read through the suggestions, you will need to decide for yourself if these new techniques fit into your family's earthquake preparedness plan. As different as the techniques may seem, that difference might just be what saves you during an earthquake of mass proportions!

Earthquake Survival Poll

Doug Copp's Proven "Triangle of Life"

Doug Copp is the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager for "America Rescue Team International" (ARTI), the world's most experienced rescue team. His techniques have been under scrutiny for a little while now, however after watching a program on "Real TV," for me personally, I find his techniques worthy to employ during a big earthquake. This guy has been at, close to, one thousand major disasters throughout the world since 1985, only missing the big stuff when more than one situation happened at a time. Copp and his team are literally the "go-to earthquake guys" for every country in the world, no exaggeration.

In 1996, Copp made a film regarding earthquake survival. His film has changed forever the way we need to react in a critical earthquake event. If you want to have a better chance of living during any of the biggest earthquakes from California to Japan, start paying attention right now! Here is what Copp's proven "triangle of life" method teaches us to do If you can not escape to the outdoors during an earthquake:

Large Earthquake Frequency of Occurrence

Information derived from:


8.5 - 8.9


8.0 - 8.4 


7.5 - 7.9 


7.0 - 7.4


6.5 - 6.9


6.0 - 6.4


Doug Copp offers Public Safety Videos on the Triangle of Life safety procedure

Going From 0% to 100% Earthquake Survival

Doug Copp conducted a scientifically managed survival test. He placed several mannequins in a school house, 10 positioned in the familiar "duck and cover" pose, and the other 10 in his "triangle of life" position. He then simulated a huge earthquake whereas the building collapsed around the mannequins.

Next, he crawled into the ruble and filmed the actual results. What was the shocking outcome of this experiment you ask? The "duck and cover" mannequins would have experienced a probable 0% survival rate, while the "triangle of life" mannequins would have likely experienced a 100% survival rate. AMAZING!

There are Always Earthquake Skeptics

Some question the experiment due to the different construction applications around the world; some countries build better structures than others. This experiment was conducted in Turkey (under the supervision of educated, professional scientist), bringing to question if western construction is a viable comparison. After you read Copp's advice, you must decide for yourself if you think Copp's plan is an effective safety tool for surviving a large earthquake where you live.

Staying Alive During an Earthquake

Why Is The Survival Rate So High In The Triangle Of Life Scenario

According to Copp's findings, when an earthquake causes the ceilings to fall in, this abundant weight crushes the objects and furniture, but leaves a void next to the items. This space is Copp's "triangle of life."

Size of Objects Matter During Big Earthquake Survival

The larger and more sturdy an object is, the less it will be crushed and compact. It is when people use these objects the probability to stay safe increases greatly. Copp suggest that next time you see a collapsed building on TV, or otherwise, take a look to see how many triangle shaped voids you can find. They are everywhere, the triangle shape is formed more often than any other shape known to man. Please make note that getting under desks or a bed rarely offer you the chance at survival, because it's nearly impossible for a triangle shaped void to be created.

Triangle Of Life Earthquake Survival Graphic

Finding the Safety Void Triangle during an earthquake will save your life. Never get under a desk!

Finding the Safety Void Triangle during an earthquake will save your life. Never get under a desk!

A Couple of Doug Copp's Earthquake Survival Tips

  • Almost without fail, those who simply "duck and cover" during a building collapse will be crushed to death. Everyone who gets under desks or cars is crushed to death.
  • Like dogs, cats, and babies, the fetal position is a natural safety survival pose. This is the perfect position to take when in an earthquake. This allows you to fit into a smaller void, next to a couch, or other bulky object that won't compress a lot, leaving room for you to tuck yourself safely into.
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  • Wooden constructed buildings are safer than concrete slab, and brick structures. The wood will bend and flex with the quake, and if it does collapse, several wooden boards will provide lots of safety voids. Brick buildings will break apart, tossing hard heavy bricks that can cause injury and crush you, while a concrete slab is just a death sentence.
  • If you're in bed at night (or anytime for that matter) and an earthquake hits, simply roll off of the bed and lay NEXT to it (never under it), as this is where the biggest void will be. Copp says that hotels could increase survival rates in earthquakes by posting a sign on the back of room doors that advise just this.
  • Everyone who is under a door jam during a building collapse is killed. If the door jam falls back or forward the falling building will crush you. If the door jam falls to the side you will get cut in half by the doorway. Either way, you are going to die if you stand in the door jam during a building collapse.
  • Avoid stairs during earthquakes. They are independently constructed from the building and will often fail due to the quake (even if the building doesn't collapse).
  • If you are in your car you will be crushed if an overhead road, bridge, or construction slab falls on you. In the San Francisco earthquake the people stayed in their cars, and subsequently were crushed by the falling sections of bridge. Had they been able to roll out of their cars and sit or lie next to them, they would have survived. According to Copp, a 3 foot safety void was created next to these crushed vehicles.
  • Significant voids are found next to large stacks of paper, as paper will not compact. So, if it is at all possible, snuggle up in the fetal position next to a large pile of stacked newspapers!

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Comments for "New Earthquake Safety Plan, Find the Void in Earthquake Survival"

Sam on December 10, 2013:

I. Was. In. The. 2004. Tsunami

asheeb on April 16, 2013:

just experienced a quake here in india and was researching about quakes online when i came across ur hub. i have one question though. i live on the top floor. so is it safe for me to go on the terrace or should i use the stairs to go down 10 flights?

Lise on October 17, 2012:

Try an 8.7 Earthquake at the age 8

Kymberly Fergusson from Germany on July 25, 2012:

I was on a train in Fukushima during the 9.0 quake in 2011, and at a train station during the Iwate 7.2 quake in 2008. Both were scary experiences, although nothing quite compares to the 9.0. The insane number of strong aftershocks (above mag. 6) in 2011 rattled everyone - the ground did not stop shaking for months, and is still rumbling today.

Kids in Japan are taught to get under their desks at school when a quake hits, and move away from anything glass. Buildings are typically built to withstand and move with the shakes, although they are often cracked and houses lose a good number of roof tiles.

I think I'd still prefer to seek open ground, away from anything that could potentially fall!

Lubna on March 07, 2012:

Great post! Super like

Cliff Les on January 31, 2012:

This makes more sense to me than previous safety tips. The idea of seeking cover under a table etc. is only useful if there is nothing heavy above that can destroy the cover. If there is then lying beside a sturdy object is of greater benefit.

randy on November 15, 2011:

Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

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sharewhatuknow from Western Washington on October 23, 2011:

Whoa K9, thanks for that triangle !! It sounds reasonable to me. Just fall off the bed or out of the car and go into a fetal position right next to it. Let the bed/car take the weight of any falling debris. And so forth. Very, very great info!! Definitely rehearsing that scenario in my mind right now.

Micheal from United Kingdom on October 22, 2011:

Very useful information.

I have experienced 2 earthquakes both below 5 on the scale and both times I too was in bed.

One in England 2001 and one in Cape Town 2003 both where powerful enough to make the bed wobble a little like jelly on a plate. And there was no mistaking what it was. Very freaky.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on September 21, 2011:

Survival Supply~ Wow! What a fascinating story you must have...which makes me doubly thrilled that you approve of this new earthquake survival technique. The 1989 Loma Prieta quake was one heck of a quake indeed, yet taught us much about these deadly natural disasters; I am so glad you made it out alive! Thank you so much for stopping by today, I am honored to have such life experience in the house.



Survival Supply on September 21, 2011:

I was in the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 and I can clearly remember it! Big Earthquakes are very scary. Yes, I also remember being taught in school to "duck and cover" under our school desk and also the other #1 place to go was a doorway. It is so important to be prepared for any type of natural disaster BEFORE one occurs and this means being educated with up to date knowledge as to what to do. Great Hub!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on September 05, 2011:

Aveetil~ If it were me and I were on a 5th or 6th floor of a building, this would be the time I most certainly would utilize the Triangle of Life during a big earthquake! But that is just me, and you would have decide for yourself if your given situation called for another type of survival technique. I am so glad you made it by today to read how to survive in a big quake. I was very relieved to discover this technique for safety, and I hope it serves you and anyone else well.

I appreciate your remarks~



Aveetil on September 05, 2011:

Great Hub.Used to always think what to do incase of an earthquake.I still have one query on those people who stays in a floor which is somewhere in middle of the building (say 5 th Floor in a 10 Storey building).

Raymond D Choiniere from USA on August 31, 2011:

You're quite welcome K8. LOL! :)

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 31, 2011:

Cagsil~ Always thrilled when you stop by! When it comes to the atom bomb, I think I would have to join you in the water. Isn't it true that water is one of the few barriers that slows radiation damage? Anyway, thanks so much for playing along with this little earthquake safety hub, I always enjoy your comments Ray! And thank you so much for the congrats!

Big HubHugs~


Raymond D Choiniere from USA on August 31, 2011:

Hey K9, congrats on your hub being nominated as a hub of the day. :) That's pretty cool. :) Secondly, you did a great job on the article and I can see why it was nominated. LOL! :) However, my take on Earthquakes, isn't much really, because living where I live, I don't get them or haven't ever felt them when they do happen. But, having said that, if it came down to ass is going outside, where I have room to move. I will not stay inside a building, especially buildings made nowadays. LOL! As for an atom bomb? Well, I think again, I would not stay inside a building, I would again go outside and find the nearest river, if I have time. When the bomb goes off, I would rather be underwater while it goes off on the ground. LOL! Oh well, I guess I'll leave it there. ;) Great hub! :)

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 31, 2011:

PWalker281~ Yep. You are absolutely correct. The speculation is as you say, and for my money a very probable reality. A shift in the earth's axis was the most prominent issue when Japan incurred the wrath of it's 8.9 (I believe) quake. Earthquakes of this magnitude are very important natural events for this reason.

Thanks for your great input!



PWalker281 on August 31, 2011:

Didn't the earthquake in Japan cause the earth's axis to shift? And there's some speculation that the moon's gravitational pull may have exacerbated it.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 31, 2011:

Jennie Demario~ Wow, what interesting questions. I would think you might be able to feel the shift in atmospheric pressure as the plates were being rearranged even if you were in a hovering helicopter, as 10 feet is a short distance, during a large quake. At the very least, the illusion of movement due to swaying and moving objects, would be probable. As for effecting the Earths gravitational pull, yes. I think that a large enough earthquake could cause the surface plates to shift enough leaving them placed in a skewed position; thus revising the way gravity pulls against the planet due to the weight change to the surface.

Great comments, thanks for playing along!I appreciate your remarks.



jack on August 30, 2011:

We are in the ting of fire region so this is a very good hub to referenced. Thanks to your post! Thumbs up!

Venture Boyz from Floating in the clouds on August 30, 2011:

If we were having an earthquake and you got into a helicopter and hovered about 10 feet above the earth do you think you would feel the quake? Do earthquakes have any effect on the earths gravitational pull?

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 29, 2011:

Yep! Just a minor hick-up. The HubPages team was on the ball as usual and the trouble was fixed very quickly! Thanks for the support Flora.



FloraBreenRobison on August 29, 2011:

Hooray! you got to republish this!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 29, 2011:

DzzyMissLizzy~ Thanks for the congrats! I was thrilled to have the hub of the day to say the least.

As for your added earthquake advice, thank you very much. It is a really good point you make about the high-rise buildings and sheets of falling glass. I guess it just goes to show you that it is important to understand your current location in respect to natural disaster survival. Not one method works for all situations.

I sure appreciate you contributing to the earthquake survival list of safety measures. I respect your input very much!

HubHugs my friend~


Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on August 29, 2011:

Congrats on Hub of the Day!!! Good job!

Interesting. I've heard of this before, and as an amateur geology buff, I'v studied a fair amount about earthquakes and buildings. (Not that I'm an engineer, or anything--I'm not.)

In geology class in college, our instructor said, that the worst and most dangerous thing people do is to run inside or is safer to stay where you are..If indoors, stay there; if outdoors, stay there. Running either way puts you at risk of being crushed by large chunks falling from the outer surface of the building.

Likewise, you may be sliced to ribbons and die from being sliced up by falling sheets of broken plate glass windows. We were told that a life-saving measure in areas with tall high-rise buildings with lots of glass was exactly to dive under a parked car, to keep from getting sliced to bits.

Seems like they always change the rules....

Marissa from United States on August 28, 2011:

This hub really got me thinking! I was just looking around my house to locate those triangles of safety in case anything major was ever to occur. Thanks so much for sharing this useful piece of information! I'll be sharing this with my teacher friends who will most likely practice the under-the-desk drill this year. Congrats on your Hub of the Day status!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 21, 2011:

Cara~ I wish those admin power-house positions would be filled with the front-line warriors such as yourself! Possibly our education system could finally heal, and a teacher's paycheck would equal the value of the wisdom you share; priceless as it may be, your knowledge should surpass that which is paid to politicians who squander those good lessons given to them by their own mentors. I get that you were strictly tongue in check; I just wanted to be sure you know just how valuable I know teachers to be. :)


cardelean from Michigan on August 21, 2011:

K9, thank you on behalf of all of the teachers out there for your support of educators. I know that there are many great teachers out there that make a difference in their students' lives and I like to believe that I am one of them. I care for my students both on an academical and personal level. I'm glad that Mr. Mitchell was there for you.

My comment was more tongue in cheek because so many administrators care so little about what teachers have to say about educating children these days. Thanks for everything!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 21, 2011:

Cara~ Thanks for leaving your comments! I understand your concern with the current tornado emergency plan, never made sense to me when I was stationed in Texas thirty years ago, and not much has changed since. As for the "just a teacher" remark;

When I was in sixth grade, a new teacher came to our school. Had it not been for his kind heart and willingness to help a troubled young girl and her family, I would have never made anything out of this life of mine. I was saved emotionally and personally by Mr. Mitchell. It was at that point in my life I began to turn my grades around and made straight A's through the rest of my education, including college. Since that point, I have honored teachers as the prizes they are to this world. They are the keepers of young minds and souls, and should be worshiped as such.

I am thrilled you found value in the new "triangle of life" method to earthquake safety! I think it is the most viable way to survive in a big quake.

Big HubHugs~


cardelean from Michigan on August 21, 2011:

I don't live anywhere near earthquake fault lines but I will remember this if I am ever visiting any of those areas! Hiding under a desk never did make much sense to me either. Just like when we practice for tornadoes at school, why are we sent in a hallway filled with windows and cover our heads? Doesn't make much sense to me but then again, I'm just a teacher! Great information, thanks!

Paradise7 on August 18, 2011:

Good hub and useful! I'll remember it in case I need to. Thanks.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 18, 2011:

Azure11~ Thanks for the comments! Glad you weighed the options for yourself. My feelings are the same as yours, this new earthquake survival method makes sense to me, and I will use it should my world begin to quake.

Thanks for the heads-up on the images not being avaiable unless you are signed in..., no idea why this is happening, but I will attempt to sort it out. I appriciate that you said something!



Marian L from UK on August 18, 2011:

Very interesting information K9 - I hope to never find myself in that situation but who knows where I might be at a particular time so forewarned is forearmed as they say. It does makes sense to be honest so I would definitely take this course of action if I needed to. On a different note, I'm not sure why, but I could only see the images once I had signed in...

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 17, 2011:

Robin~ You are absolutely right, FEMA has its issues with Doug Copp's methods. But like you, I find far more logic with his plan of action than all you mention the gov. suggest. I believe the only film documentation he did was in Turkey, it is a funding issue according to Copp's side, but he continues to advise the same rules for the USA and world orders. It would seem that the insurance companies have a stake in the cost of changing the survival method to the "triangle of life." The extreme view on this being that survivors will want to claim compensation, while fatalities don't want very much of anything. It has also been suggested (by Copp supporters) that the insurance company's who cover our school's will pull their coverage if the survival plans get revised; and we all know how difficult it is for our schools to stay in operation already.

Here is a site about the way Doug and his fans feel on the issue. It is VERY one sided and they are "hard hitting advocates" for changing the earthquake survival techniques here in the USA. So, my point is keep an open mind.


Thank you for your comments Robin, I appreciate your support!



India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 17, 2011:

Cardisa~ Yea the whole get under a table or desk plan always seemed more like a "sitting duck" response than a "duck and cover" response. I really like the idea of having a survival plan in mind before the big earthquake hits, it is hard enough to think clearly under such stressful conditions. I know that for me, this "triangle of life" safety plan feels right.

I am so pleased you left your comments today!



India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 17, 2011:

Simone~ I was amazed with the amount of logic this new earthquake survival technique brought to the forefront. Like you, I knew the "duck and cover" position couldn't possibly be the safest response, but had no idea as to what would be a better choice. You and I live in (near) a pretty shakey place on this earth, so my hope is for ether of our sakes this triangle of life stuff is the key to living through a big earthquake! Thank you so much for the support my efforts on HubPages and sharing your comments.



Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on August 17, 2011:

This is really interesting. I have heard of the Triangle of Life before, but I wasn't sure if it was truth or a myth. FEMA states that students should get under desks; drivers should stay in their car if an earthquake hits; and if you're in bed, you should stay there. All of the things Doug Copp says not to do. It's so confusing to know what is right!! However, my logical mind says that he is right. It just makes sense. Has he done any experimentation in the United States? Our buildings may be built better than in Turkey. I have been in a few earthquakes that were frightening, but were rolling rather than jerking quakes. I think we're due for one in California in the near future. It's scary! Thanks for all of the information!!

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on August 17, 2011:

A very well written easy to follow article. Cobb...I hope I got his name right...had the right idea. I never trusted under the table as being safe during an earthquake. He is right about the fetal position. And about laying next to the bed instead of under, that too is good advice. I never understood why we should hide under the bed or table during a disaster when it's likely that the table might collapse on us.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 17, 2011:

Wow. This is incredibly helpful! I knew that duck and cover is total bunk, but I didn't really know what to do INSTEAD of stand in a doorway or just get outside as quickly as possible. This triangle of life concept makes perfect sense... and it may very well save my life someday! Boy, I'm glad I read this Hub and I'll make sure my friends and family know about this! Rated up and useful.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 16, 2011:

Agnes Penn~ You are right on the money, it is far too often that we wait until it is too late to save our own lives. During an earthquake is no time to be surfing the web for "how to" advice on quake survival! Learn it now, be prepared later! Thank you for your time, I value your comments very much.



India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 16, 2011:

Flora~ Holy smokes! I'm glad you were well out of school before any earthquakes knocked that old Canadian middle-school over! A very good choice they made to voluntarily take it down before disaster struck! Thanks for leaving your comments, I live pretty close to a fault line myself, so I too stay informed about how best to survive a quake.

Appreciate the support!



Maria del Pilar Perez from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA on August 16, 2011:

Thank you for your post. This invaluable information tends to be pushed out of people's minds until it is too late. If a quake hits at least one is prepared. If it doesn't nothing is lost, but a new perspective on what others go through emerges.

FloraBreenRobison on August 16, 2011:

I've only live through minor quakes that can barely be felt or far enough away from one that I could feel it slightly (Olympia, eg.) but I live on a fault line here in British Columbia. A big one could come at any time. I'm quite familiar with the Triangle of Life technique. I remember seeing it on the news.

My Juniour High School-now called a middle school-had a building that used to be the high school here-the only one from the Fraser Valley to New Westminister. That building was found to be the most dangerous school building to be in during an earthquake in western Canada. ouch! It was torn down eventually-I was 22. I'm 35 now.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 16, 2011:

PWalker281~ Between the volcanoes and earthquakes, I am surprised that those who live on the Hawaiian Islands are not in a constant state of "rumble." So glad you found the hub informative. Earthquake safety is most certainly a shakey subject! ;)

I really appreciate your comments.



PWalker281 on August 16, 2011:

I remember when Hawaii experienced a minor earthquake several years ago. I was sitting in my bed reading when I felt a very slight rumble. It was barely noticeable but it got my attention. Found out later in the day that the earthquake occurred near the Big Island; I was on O'ahu. That's when I learned about what you are calling "the triangle of safety." Before that, I'd been told repeatedly to stand in a doorway. Great hub! Well-written and informative. Rated up and useful.

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