Drop, Cover, Hold On
As part of the Great Washington Shake Out, at 10:20 today take the time to practice what you will do when an Earthquake occurs.
- Drop where you are, onto your hands and knees. This position protects you from being knocked down and also allows you to stay low and crawl to shelter if nearby.
- Cover your head and neck with one arm and hand.
- If a sturdy table or desk is nearby, crawl underneath it for shelter.
- If no shelter is nearby, crawl next to an interior wall (away from windows)
- Stay on your knees; bend over to protect vital organs.
- Hold on until the shaking stops
- Under shelter: hold on to it with one hand; be ready to move with your shelter if it shifts.
- No shelter: hold on to your head and neck with both arms with both arms and hands.
Why Rescuers and Experts Recommend Drop, Cover, and Hold on
Trying to move during shaking puts you at risk: Earthquakes occur without any warning and may be so violent that you cannot run or crawl; you, therefore, will most likely be knocked to the ground where you happen to be. So it is best to drop before the earthquake drops you, and find nearby shelter or use your arms and hands to protect your head and neck. "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" gives you the best overall chance of quickly protecting yourself during an earthquake... even during quakes that cause furniture to move about rooms, and even in buildings that might ultimately collapse.
The greatest danger is from falling and flying objects: Studies of injuries and deaths caused by earthquakes over the last several decades show that you are much more likely to be injured by falling or flying objects (TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases, etc.) than to die in a collapsed building. "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" (as described above) will protect you from most of these injuries.
If there is no furniture nearby, you can still reduce the chance of injury from falling objects by getting down next to an interior wall and covering your head and neck with your arms (exterior walls are more likely to collapse and have windows that may break). If you are in bed, the best thing to do is to stay there and cover your head with a pillow. Studies of injuries in earthquakes show that people who moved from their beds would not have been injured if they had remained in bed.
You can also reduce your chance of injury or damage to your belongings by securing them in the first place. Secure top-heavy furniture to walls with flexible straps. Use earthquake putty or Velcro fasteners for objects on tables, shelves, or other furniture. Install safety latches on cabinets to keep them closed. Instructions on how to "secure your space" are at www.earthquakecountry.org/step1.
Building collapse is less of a danger: While images of collapsed structures in earthquakes around the world are frightening and get the most attention from the media, most buildings do not collapse at all, and few completely collapse. In earthquake-prone areas of the U.S. and in many other countries, strict building codes have worked to greatly reduce the potential of structure collapse. However, there is the possibility of structural failure in certain building types, especially unreinforced masonry (brick buildings), and in certain structures constructed before the latest building codes. Rescue professionals are trained to understand how these structures collapse in order to identify potential locations of survivors within "survivable void spaces."
The main goal of "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" is to protect you from falling and flying debris and other nonstructural hazards, and to increase the chance of your ending up in a Survivable Void Space if the building actually collapses. The space under a sturdy table or desk is likely to remain even if the building collapses- pictures from around the world show tables and desks standing with rubble all around them and even holding up floors that have collapsed. Experienced rescuers agree that successfully predicting other safe locations in advance is nearly impossible, as where these voids will depend on the direction of the shaking and many other factors. (See "triangle of life" below.)
The ONLY exception to the "Drop, Cover and Hold On" rule is if you are in a country with unengineered construction, and if you are on the ground floor of an unreinforced mud-brick (Adobe) building, with a heavy ceiling. In that case, you should try to move quickly outside to an open space. This cannot be recommended as a substitute for building earthquake-resistant structures in the first place!
What Rescuers and Experts *Do Not* Recommend You Do During an Earthquake
Based on years of research about how people are injured or killed during earthquakes, and the experiences of U.S. and international search and rescue teams, these three actions are not recommended to protect yourself during earthquakes:
- Do Not run outside or to other rooms during shaking: The area near the exterior walls of a building is the most dangerous place to be. Windows, facades, and architectural details are often the first parts of the building to collapse. To stay away from this danger zone, stay inside if you are inside and outside if you are outside. Also, shaking can be so strong that you will not be able to move far without falling down, and objects may fall or be thrown at you that you do not expect. Injuries can be avoided if you drop to the ground before the earthquake drops you.
- Do Not stand in a doorway: An enduring earthquake image is a collapsed adobe home with the door frame as the only standing part. From this came our belief that a doorway is the safest place to be during an earthquake. True- if you live in an old, unreinforced adobe house or some older wood-frame houses. In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house, and the doorway does not protect you from the most likely source of injury- falling or flying objects. You also may not be able to brace yourself in the door during strong shaking. You are safer under a table.
- Do Not get in the "triangle of life": In recent years, an email has been circulating which describes an alternative to the long-established "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" advice. The so-called "triangle of life" and some of the other actions recommended in the email are potentially life-threatening, and the credibility of the source of these recommendations has been broadly questioned.
- The "triangle of life" advice (always get next to a table rather than underneath it) is based on several wrong assumptions:
- buildings always collapse in earthquakes (wrong- especially in developed nations, and flat "pancake" collapse is rare anywhere);
- when buildings collapse they always crush all furniture inside (wrong- people DO survive under furniture or other shelters);
- people can always anticipate how their building might collapse and anticipate the location of survivable void spaces (wrong- the direction of shaking and unique structural aspects of the building make this nearly impossible); and
- during strong shaking people can move to a desired location (wrong- strong shaking can make moving very difficult and dangerous).
Some other recommendations for the "triangle of life" are also based on wrong assumptions and very hazardous. For example, the recommendation to get out of your car during an earthquake and lie down next to it assumes that there is always an elevated freeway above you that will fall and crush your car. Of course, there are very few elevated freeways, and lying next to your car is very dangerous because the car can move and crush you, and other drivers may not see you on the ground!
Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety
When it comes to disaster, there are simple things you can do to make yourself safer. The information on this page is designed as a step-by-step guide to give you details on what to do before, during, and after an earthquake. Start with the simple tips within each step so that you can build on your accomplishments.
An example of this in Step 1 is moving heavy, unsecured objects from top shelves onto lower ones. This will only take minutes to complete and you are safer from that hazard!
The information in the steps linked below will help you learn how to better prepare to survive and recover, wherever you live, work, or travel.
|Prepare||Survive and Recover|
|Before the next big earthquake we recommend these four steps that will make you, your family, or your workplace better prepared to survive and recover quickly:||During the next big earthquake, and immediately after, is when your level of preparedness will make a difference in how you and others survive and can respond to emergencies:|
Step 1: Secure your space by identifying hazards and securing moveable item
Step 5: Drop, Cover, and Hold On when the earthquake shakes
Step 2: Plan to be safe by creating a disaster plan and deciding how you will communicate in an emergency.
Step 6: Improve safety after earthquakes by evacuating if necessary, helping the injured, and preventing further injuries or damage.
Step 3: Organize disaster supplies in convenient locations.
|After the immediate threat of the earthquake has passed, your level of preparedness will determine your quality of life in the weeks and months that follow:|
Step 4: Minimize financial hardship by organizing important documents, strengthening your property, and considering insurance.
Step 7: Reconnect and Restore – Restore daily life by reconnecting with others, repairing damage, and rebuilding community
Have a great day and Be Safe! I am always available for questions!
Department of Emergency Management