Drop & Cover or the Triangle of Life?


When I was growing up, we were all told that, in the case of an earthquake you needed to “drop and cover”. If possible cover yourself with a sturdy table or desk, if not, roll into a ball and cover the back of your neck with your hands.

In the past few years, however, a new earthquake survival technique has been advocated. This technique, called “The triangle of Life” advocates getting behind a couch or up against an inside wall so that, if the building collapses, you end up in a triangular pocket thereby increasing your odds of survival. It is based on the fact that search and rescue found that survivors in earthquakes where the buildings collapse, like the one in Haiti, were in such a pocket or triangle.

So what is the safest way to survive an earthquake? Should you drop and cover or get into the triangle of life?

The problem is that the drop & cover is the best protection against objects falling on you (plaster, chandeliers, etc…) whereas the triangle of like is the best protection against collapsing buildings. The triangle isn’t going to protect against falling objects and pieces of the building and the drop and cover isn’t going to protect against a building that’s collapsing. In the Haiti earthquake, for example, the triangle of life probably was the most effective because whole buildings collapsed. Those who ended up in pockets like those created by the triangle of life had better odds of surviving and being found. Getting under a desk when the floor above you is coming down isn’t going to save you; you’re going to get crushed. Here in the USA, however, most earthquakes don’t result in the whole building imploding so the drop and cover will still probably save more lives than the triangle.
I guess that ideally, a table in a corner would be the ideal, especially as you don’t know how strong the earthquake is going to be till it’s over.

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