Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Triangle of Life

Buildings collapse and people are trapped inside. Some are killed almost immediately by falling debris. Others might be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to avoid being buried. But nobody wants to depend on mere luck when the roof starts to come down.

A few years ago, a fellow named Doug Copp (Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager for the American Rescue Team International) discovered a method to beat the odds when a building starts to come down on top of people. The crisis could be caused by an earthquake, an explosion, an impact-type accident from a vehicle or aircraft hitting the structure, poor engineering resulting in the collapse, or a decrepit building breathing its last.

The method Mr. Copp came up with is called the "Triangle of Life" and involves taking shelter in very particular spaces within the collapsing structure. He begins by recalling the old "duck and cover" method taught to school children, wherein they fall to their knees and crawl beneath their school desks or tables and cover their heads with their arms.

What Mr. Copp found during his service as a rescuer was that inside collapsed buildings the weight of the ceiling members falling on top of objects such as desks or tables crushed those things and would also crush anyone hiding under them. But, as the furniture was smashed down, an air space was often formed next to the object, creating what he called the triangle of life. If a person took shelter next to the desk or table, or whatever, that individual would have a better chance of survival than if he was under the desk itself.

This concept extends outside buildings as well. In a parking structure, you're better off ducking down beside a car rather than being inside or under it. As the car is crushed, some of it will support the collapsed structure and create an open air space beside the vehicle. But the space beneath the car is likely to be non-existent.

We'll discuss more survival strategies for this type of situation later, but for now teach yourself to instinctively look for those triangle of life situations in any building you enter.

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