Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The So-Called Triangle of Life

Every good Californian knows to duck under a desk or stand in a doorway when an earthquake strikes. So I've been curious about this "Triangle of Life" email that gets sent around periodically, forwarded by well-meaning souls.

Basically, it states that hiding under a desk or something heavy is the worst thing to do in an earthquake, and instead, one should curl up on the floor right next to that heavy thing. This is supposedly because a little "triangle" of space will be preserved next to that structure when the building pancakes and collapses. The author then recalls crawling through a post-earthquake school and seeing hundreds of children crushed under their desks, when their lives would have been saved by lying down next to the desks.

It's an interesting theory, but it seemed odd that the content of the email thread never made it to any kind of Red Cross or other recommendation policy. Since the Japan earthquake, folks have started forwarding it around again, so it seemed more urgent to look up whether there's any truth to the matter.

Enter Snopes.com, the great urban legend debunker. And no, there's not a lot of accuracy to the matter. For example, the "drop and cover" instructions are designed for US building codes, where very few (if any buildings) have pancaked in an earthquake. The qualifications of the author are also highly questioned, as he's apparently under investigation for fraud.

For more information, see Snopes!


mayberry said...

So scary that misinformation like that gets around!

Bob said...

For single story schools and houses. hiding under a table and doorways is the best.
For high rises that pancakes, you need to hide between something that is solid. I remember the guy said that books and stacks of paper do not collapse. So if you live in a high rise in an earthquake zone, have stacks of books on the floor so you can hide between them in an earthquake.