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 (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 % 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
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
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 from Doug Copp:
1) 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 crush.
2) 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.
3) 3) 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 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.
5) 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.
6) Everybody who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is
killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the door jam 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
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 blocked.
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, 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.
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.