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.
TRIANGLE OF LIFE
by Doug Copp
Edited by Larry Linn
for MAA Safety Committee briefing on 4/13/04
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 (UNX051 -UNIENET) for two
years. I have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985,
except for simultaneous disasters.
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 cover. 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.
The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City
during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under their 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.
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 building. They are everywhere.
I trained the Fire Department of Trujillo (population 750,000) in how to
survive, take care of their families, and to rescue others in earthquakes.
The chief of rescue in the Trujillo Fire Department is a professor at
Trujillo University. He accompanied me everywhere. He gave personal
testimony: "My name is Roberto Rosales. I am Chief of Rescue in Trujillo.
When I was 11 years old, I was trapped inside of a collapsed building. My
entrapment occurred during the earthquake of 1972 that killed 70,000
people. I survived in the 'triangle of life' that existed next to my
brother's motorcycle. My friends who got under the bed and under desks were
crushed to death [he gives more details, names, addresses etc.]...I am the
living example of the 'triangle of life'. My dead friends are the example
of 'duck and cover'."
TIPS DOUG COPP PROVIDES:
- Everyone who simply "ducks and covers" WHEN BUILDINGS COLLAPSE is
crushed to death -- Every time, without exception. People who get under
objects, like desks or cars, are always crushed.
- Cats, dogs and babies all naturally often curl up in the fetal position.
You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct.
You can 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.
- Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an
earthquake. The reason is simple: the 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
- 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.
- If an earthquake happens while you are watching television 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.
- Everybody 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
- 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. They are
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 screaming, fleeing people. They should
always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not
- 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 blocked;
- 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 sitting or
lying next to their vehicles, says the author. 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.
- 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.
Version Info: $Revision: 1.1 $ $Date: 2004/09/15 00:56:06 $