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March 10, 2020
The most important step you can take to survive an earthquake is to learn what to do to protect yourself and your family when “the big one” happens. In a worst case scenario, material possessions — including a home — can be replaced. Your life cannot.
News reports often include dramatic footage of a fortunate survivor being rescued from the rubble of a destroyed building. Actually, it is much more common for serious injury and death to occur when people are knocked down by the force of an earthquake or struck by flying or falling objects. Your best protection at the first sign of a quake is:
DROP. Immediately drop to your hands and knees before you lose your balance and are knocked over by the force of the quake. If you are close enough and can safely crawl under a sturdy table or desk, do so.
COVER. Cover your head and neck with an arm and hand. If you cannot crawl to a sturdy table or desk, try to get away from windows by crawling to an interior wall. Without the cover of a table or desk, stay on your knees and bend over to protect vital organs.
HOLD ON. If you are under a table or desk, hold on with one hand and be aware that you may move with it as it shifts in the quake. If you are not sheltered, use both hands to cover your head and body as best as you can.
Memorize Drop, Cover, Hold On, and periodically conduct drills for the family so that your response will become second nature. Practice is helpful for everyone, especially children. Identify tables, desks, and other furniture in each room that could serve as a sturdy shelter. Identify interior walls for each area of your home. Make note of windows that could shatter and heavy furniture that could topple.
Our first primal instinct is to run, but that is not the safest response. People get injured by broken glass, flying objects, and falls. Outside, you may encounter other dangers — downed power lines, fissures in the earth, falling building debris, and toppling trees. Practicing Drop, Cover, Hold On will help you counter the instinct to run. Leave your home once the quake has stopped and you can safely exit, watching for obstacles and dangers.
For years, the conventional wisdom was that a doorway provided a strong, safe place to take shelter. This came from old photos of an adobe home reduced to rubble with only a frame doorway left standing. Today’s homes are not made of unreinforced adobe; building materials and designs are stronger, so doorways are not “the last man standing.” You are safer under a sturdy table or desk, or close to an interior wall.
The Triangle of Life email went viral a few years ago. Its premise was that the safest place to shelter was beside a large and sturdy object, which would hold up during a quake and create a clear space beside it. The Triangle of Life has since been discounted by disaster authorities. The theory is based on one possible scenario: a total building collapse. Even in that scenario, authorities reject it as a life-saving choice. In reality, most buildings do not totally collapse. Your greatest danger is falling down or being hit by flying objects, so Drop, Cover, Hold On is your best plan.
The views and opinions expressed within are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Parker, Smith & Feek. While every effort has been taken in compiling this information to ensure that its contents are totally accurate, neither the publisher nor the author can accept liability for any inaccuracies or changed circumstances of any information herein or for the consequences of any reliance placed upon it.