What is the "Triangle of Life" and is it legitimate?

The "Triangle of Life" refers to a claim that the safest place to be if you are indoors during an earthquake is flat on the floor next to a large object that cannot collapse, like a couch or bed. The claim is that, if the ceiling collapses, a person can avoid being crushed if they are in the space under a piece of the ceiling that falls to rest leaning against the non-collapsible object.

However, in the United States and other regions with modern building codes, buildings are constructed to prevent "pancaking" (having an upper floor collapse onto a lower floor) in this way. Extensive research has indicated that the American Red Cross' recommended method of "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" has saved lives in the United States. The observations that led to the "Triangle of Life" claim were made largely in regions with poorer building codes.

So, "Drop, Cover, and Hold On" is the more proven safety method for buildings constructed to modern building codes. However, for very poorly constructed buildings, the "Triangle of Life" may have some merit.

See also:
American Red Cross response to "Triangle of Life" claims
Earthquake Country Alliance

Contributing source: USGS

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