Suggestions for surviving an earthquake have circulated among emergency responders and organizations recently. And while some of the advice is appropriate, the e-mail message does not reflect measures supported by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
Doug Copp, rescue chief and disaster manager for the American Rescue Team International, offers a number of suggestions for increasing the odds of surviving a major earthquake. He reportedly bases the advice on extensive experience, including two years with the United Nations in Disaster Mitigation.
FEMA training parts ways with Copp's admonition to flee from structures through doors or windows. He insists that 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 crushed.
When Cheryl Rost, manager of ITD Employee Safety, received the e-mail that included 10 survival steps, she asked Mary Barlow-Brusse for input. The latter, who specializes in public education for the Ada City-County Emergency Management office in Boise, disagrees with the assertion that chances of survival are best outside of buildings.
In a Nov. 1 response to Rost, Barlow-Brusse said:
Our message, with direction from FEMA and other federal authorities, remains 'drop, cover and hold.' The truth is, that most of the people who are killed or injured in an earthquake, here in this country, are usually done so by being struck by falling or swinging objects - pieces of furniture, tall bookcases, grandfather clocks, etc., pictures and mirrors, light fixtures falling out of the ceiling and such things as the ceiling tiles themselves.
In an earthquake in the U.S., the chances of being struck by objects and killed or injured is much greater than being crushed in a building collapse. And we see much more value in training people to plan for the most likely scenarios.
In regards to some of the things the author said about getting out of the building is very concerning. In an earthquake, one of the last things you want to be around is a window. Windows do not withstand the shaking and rolling of earthquakes very well (as you can imagine), and one of the greatest hazards in that event is broken glass. Even suggesting that you climb out a window during an earthquake seems reckless at best.
So, continue to Drop, Cover and Hold:
Drop down to the floor. Stay away from windows, bookcases, mirrors, hanging plants and other heavy objects that may fall.
Cover yourself under a sturdy desk or table. If it's not possible to take cover under a desk or table, seek cover against an interior wall, away from the windows. Protect your head and neck with your arms.
Hold onto the sturdy desk or table if you took cover under one. Be prepared to move with it, since things start to shake, many objects can really 'dance' and move around. Hold the position until the shaking stops and it's safe to move. Be prepared for aftershocks.