You are here

Triangle of Life

In the wake of the Tsunami and the multiple earthquakes following it, the
following article may be quite helpful to read ... and pass on.

Edited by Larry Linn for MAA Safety Committee brief on 4/13/04.

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. 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 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.

1) Most everyone who simply "ducks and covers" WHEN BUILDINGS COLLAPSE are
crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are

2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally 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.

3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an
earthquake. 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 concrete slabs.

4) 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.

5) If an earthquake happens 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.

6) Most everyone 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 be killed!

7) 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 - 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 fleeing people. They should always be checked for
safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.

8) 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

9) 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.
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.

10) 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. Spread the word and save someone¹s

For more info... Please visit


Add new comment