I don’t mean to harp on about those Mayan predictions (Jan editorial) but I was watching the movie 2012 on the TV the other week and saw the family get under the table when the earthquake struck. Last year I was forwarded an email written by Doug Copp, a Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI); the world’s most experienced rescue team. He claims to have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries, founded rescue teams, and was the United Nations expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years.
He recalled in the email that, “The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in Mexico City during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under a 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.”
He believes that a lot of lives can be saved if we just knew about the “triangle of life”. Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, but leaves a space or void next to them. This space is what he calls the “triangle of life.” For example, get next to an object, like a bed/ sofa, or bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it rather than hide under it.
He states that wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake, which is lucky for us as most of our houses here are wooden. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake, he goes on to add, “If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created”… However most of our schools are not wooden!
A lot of people who grew up in California think to stand under a doorway is safe and is where I was advised to stand with baby Dylan when that little earthquake hit in 2006, but Doug Copp advises against this. “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!”…pretty heavy!
Here on Maui you can sign up for Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) which gives you the tools to know what to do in times of calamities and also gives you an outlet to help your community if the need arises. It is great for parents as they teach you basic first aid and survival techniques. For more information please check out the County of Maui website and search for CERT to get training schedules. I did it in 2007 and thought the information and experience was invaluable. If you have the time I really recommend it!
(The photo above was taken on a CERT training day).
Image Credit: Maui Civil Defense Agency