What to do during earthquakes you are on the 3rd floor, up

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What to do during earthquakes and you live on the 3rd floor and up in a building is quite worrisome especially during strong shakes. The “drop, cover, hold on” is still the most recommended safety protocol to keep during earthquakes and you are indoors.

While indoors, stay inside, drop under any solid furniture, cover your head, and hold onto under that object that provides you cover until the shake stops.

As soon as it stops, walk down the stairs away from the building, power lines, anything collapsible, etc. Do not run.

What to do during earthquakes

What to do during earthquakes
What to do during earthquakes? Drop, cover, and hold on. (Image: ShakeOutBC.ca)

Here’s also an answer originally posted on Quora—”a place to share knowledge and better understand the world.” The author of “Fukushima and the Coming Tokyo Earthquake (2011 – present)” Tony Smyth answered the question: What should I do during an earthquake if I live on the top floor (6th)? Smyth gives three takeaways:

  1. Proceed to an inner doorway.
  2. Drop and cover
  3. Look for the “triangle of life” and seek refuge in it.

For the “triangle of life” theory, Smyth said,

The idea is that 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. So the idea here is to lie down beside some big object which will create a big enough space where you will be safe.

Tony Smyth

During strong earthquakes, standing and looking for a cover is impossible. Smyth suggests that the best thing to do is to crawl. For him, the drop and cover seem to be the best. He also advises not to run outside during strong earthquakes as an injury is more likely to happen than a building collapse. But in the 1923 Tokyo/Yokohama earthquake, Smyth said “it was fire, not the quake itself that killed most people.”

What to do during earthquakes: The triangle of life theory
Doug Copp is the key proponent of the “triangle of life” earthquake survival strategy.

A group of experts dismissed the 1985 “triangle of life” theory by Doug Copp, the key proponent of such an earthquake survival strategy and rescue chief and disaster manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI). The Structural Engineers Association of California (SEAOC) on Oct. 6, 2004, released its position statement claiming that Doug Copp’s “triangle of life” earthquake survival strategy is flawed. SEAOC said it “puts one in greater danger from [the] falling hazards.” It rather claims that the duck and cover strategy is the best option.

However, Doug Copp identified the problem in the duck and cover strategy. As people are advised to “hide and protect themselves” as what duck and cover strategy meant, Copp said, “People are crushed to death when the building actually collapses and squashes the desks upon impact, 98% of victims die who do ‘duck and cover’.

In the “triangle of life” theory, survival can be assured in voids next to big objects, the proponent asserted and debunked the “duck and cover” strategy as people may die “who get under crushed objects.” As Doug Copp puts it, “If you get under something that is crushed then you will be crushed. If you get next to an object that was strong enough to leave a void next to it bigger than your body then you will survive.”

But the United States Geological Survey (USGS) contested that the “triangle of life” is a “misguided idea” as Copp’s study is based on his observations during an earthquake in Turkey. Thus, USGS says, it doesn’t apply to how buildings in the United States are constructed. ▲

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