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'Triangle of Life' Not Safer for Schools in Earthquakes

'Triangle of Life' Not Safer for Schools in Earthquakes

Posted - Nov. 29, 2004 at 4:49 p.m.



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Ed Yeates ReportingA concerned State Seismic Safety Commission is tonight warning schools not to be misled by an internet site recommending dramatic changes in the way they do earthquake drills. In fact, the State says the confusion threatens to kill more kids than save them.

Duck, Cover and Hold. This is the current standard for earthquake drills in Utah. When the ground starts moving, you instantly drop under a desk, table or bench and hold on to that protection, keeping it over your head until the shaking stops.

But now an internet site put together by a national rescue worker is attempting to discredit Duck and Cover, recommending instead that you walk a distance until you're up against the nearest interior wall.

The Triangle of Life, as it's called, suggests as buildings collapses outward, a protective void is created on both sides of interior walls. Generally, this is true, but time here is an issue.

Under the triangle of life, when the earthquake hits you’re moving as fast as you can to get to an interior wall. It is safe, but you’ve wasted a lot of time coming from one end of the room to another.

Bob Carey, Utah Div. of Emergency Services & Homeland Security: "So what you're trying to do is maneuver a classroom of kids - 30 to 35 - out of their desks and over to this interior wall. The problem is they're more likely to be injured trying to get to that wall than by the failure of the building."

Earthquake Program Manager Bob Carey says collapsing buildings are much more likely in third world countries than here, because of higher construction standards. In the US a bigger risk are ceilings dropping debris within the first five seconds of a quake. We're teaching Duck and Cover because it's instantaneous. The Triangle of Life is NOT!

Bob Carey: “Now you throw this into the mix where there is some indecision, and you’ve just created a hazardous situation for the kids.”

While nothing is failsafe, Carey says by the time we realize we're in an earthquake, we're well into it, things are already falling on our heads. Schools should stick with Duck and Cover.

The Triangle of Life internet site is getting widespread distribution across the country. Carey says his office has already received inquiries from schools asking if they should change their policy.

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