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Dangerous glass, chimneys, roof tiles and other objects commonly shed off buildings

In recent months an e-mail article has been widely circulated, under the title “The Triangle of Life” written by Doug Copp of ARTI (American Rescue Team International).  It has led many people to question or plan to change their response to heavy shaking, and some of the recommendations in the article have even been repeated in media stories as if they were fact.   

However, the advice is potentially life-threatening and the author has been broadly discredited. 

You can read a partial list of authorities that refute Copp's advice in the text below, or scroll to the bottom of the page for links to some of the agencies and authorities.

But first, please click on the following link:

Watch LA County Fire video of what you really should do!


Copp's advice is refuted:

Unfortunately, most of the information in the article is false and has been soundly refuted.  I have enough professional expertise in this subject matter that I was contracted to provide curriculum on this topic to the Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel in the aftermath of the Northridge CA earthquake of 1994.

In addition, the article’s advice has also been soundly refuted by a host of authorities and agencies, including the American Red Cross, the Southern California Earthquake Center, the Earthquake Country Alliance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Disaster Education Coalition, the California Office of Emergency Services, the Structural Engineers Association of California, Oregon Office of Homeland Security, King County (WA) Office of Emergency Management, Torrance Community Response Team, the Center for Disease Control, and many others.  Some agencies, such as Cal-OSHA, initially accepted the article as sound, but issued retractions after one of my client’s contacted them, and they did further investigation.  Links to some of these sources appear later below. Some real earthquake safety facts to know:

(The following comments are made in particular for high-magnitude quake situations, and with special concern for those people who may be at or near the epicentral regions when they occur.  Seismic forces generally dissipate fairly rapidly with distance.  What you have "felt" in past earthquakes, may not be what you experience during the next one, particularly if your location is closer than you have ever been in the past.  Also, near the epicentral areas, there is much less time in which to react.)

Desk Supporting Roof - Photo Courtesy of Gary McGavin

1)      “Drop, cover & hold on” is still the recommended action to take

       during the shaking according to all major and credible earthquake

       safety authorities.

2)      You are more likely to be killed or injured from building contents and imploding glass than from structural collapse.  To protect yourself from these hazards,

a)      Contents of homes, offices and schools should be braced or secured with proper seismic restraint devices, AND …

b)      You must also take protective cover within three seconds or less during an actual earthquake.

3)      Getting under a table is not always necessary, but cover should always be used when it is available, if it is available within the three-second rule.

a)      Contrary to Copp’s claims that cover will “always” crush the victims, numerous actual post-earthquake studies show clear evidence that cover helps to protect the victims from injury from flying building contents and imploding glass, AND…

b)      Cover can provide crucial support in the event of structural collapse.  For instance, in one earthquake, one building had student desks that consist of merely a chair with a writing arm, and it was the writing arms of those desks that held up the collapsing story from above. 

4)      It is better to drop, cover & hold on within three seconds, even if no table is immediately available to get under, than to attempt to get to another “safer” location.  The time element is critical.

a)      Victims who try to move on their feet during serious shaking are often thrown violently by the seismic forces and can suffer serious injury from being thrown AND…

b)      Are at risk for suffering life-threatening injuries from being simultaneously imbedded with glass shards.  Actual post-earthquake data show that large and dagger-like shards of glass can travel more than 20 feet, and with enough force to penetrate solid wood.  If you are attempting to move on your feet, your entire body is exposed to glass and other objects that can forcefully fly from every direction.


Here are some links to follow for more information, especially about the "Triangle of Life".










Also, for a copy of a letter on this topic, which was distributed to emergency management professionals across the country, and written by Rocky Lopes, PhD, (/formerly Manager, Community Disaster EducationPreparedness Department of the American Red Cross National Headquarters).His letter can be viewed at: 



Finally, there was an investigative series in the Albuquerque Journal about the author of the faulty Triangle of Life theory, Doug Copp.  Readers can start with the following link, and then jump from there to the full investigative series.  Start here: