skip to main content

Emergency Management

Prepare Respond Mitigate

King County Emergency Management
3511 NE Second St.
Renton, WA 98056
Main Phone: 206-296-3830
Toll Free: 800-523-5044
Fax: 206-205-4056

Enhanced 9-1-1 Program
Seattle, WA
E-911 program office

May 28, 2008

"Drop, Cover and Hold" still best bet for staying safe in a quake: Internet rumor dispelled

With images from China's devastating earthquake still fresh in the media, King County residents need to know "Drop, Cover and Hold" is still the best method for earthquake safety in the United States and especially in our own quake-prone region.

This recommendation comes from the King County Office of Emergency Management, in concurrence with the American Red Cross, FEMA, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Unfortunately, e-mails have been circulating on the Internet incorrectly touting the "Triangle of Life" technique which allegedly use voids as a way to survive earthquakes. Simply put, the technique is not applicable for earthquake experiences in the United States.

"Drop, Cover and Hold is the appropriate response to Earthquakes in the United States. We simply don't build structures the same way here as in other parts of the world." said King County Office of Emergency Management Director Robin Friedman.

The "Triangle of Life" is not appropriate for use in the United States because the research used to illustrate the method were based on earthquake response and recovery in Turkey, a country very different from the United States when it comes to building standards, construction and engineering techniques, and building codes.

Earthquakes in the United States do not typically result in total building collapse or "pancake." As a result, when earthquakes strike in the U.S., the safest thing for children and adults to do is "Drop, Cover and Hold" underneath a desk, table, or other sturdy strong surface. Since there is little chance of a building collapse in the U.S., there's no need to use the "void" provided by an object like a couch.

The "Triangle of Life" also advocates for getting out of bed if caught asleep during an earthquake. Again, this is incorrect for the United States where the bed could provide more safety during an earthquake because rolling onto the floor beside it, where you could be injured by debris. The more you move during an earthquake, the more potential there is for injury.

"The Emergency Management community has worked for decades researching earthquake response and recovery throughout the world and gathering best practices," said Bill Steele, University of Washington Seismology Lab Coordinator. "Patented or not, we know what works. In the urgency of disaster, people need to instinctively know what to do. And the right message is to Drop, Cover and Hold."

Added Friedman: "It is unfortunate that misinformation can spread so quickly online. I hope that people will instead use their networks to share the proper ‘Drop, Cover and Hold' procedure with the same enthusiasm to get information to the people they care most about."

To learn more about earthquake safety and mitigation, please visit king county emergency management .  Help your family, workplace and community prepare.