This earthquake swarm has sent many people looking for advice on keeping themselves and their families safe during a temblor. There's lots of information out there. Unfortunately, not all of it is sound. One e-mail has been circulating advice that could be downright dangerous.
The email has been showing up in local inboxes, networked by concerned people, raising doubts about what experts have been saying. "A real eye-opener” writes one, “directly opposite of what we've been taught over the years. This guy's findings are absolutely amazing.” They urge the reader to pass the info along to family members, saying it could save their lives some day.
It's followed by an excerpt from an article authored by self-proclaimed rescue expert Doug Copp. He has a number of tips for surviving an earthquake. Copp says years of experience responding to earthquakes have taught him that people are most likely to survive an earthquake in spaces in a collapsed building spaces he calls the triangle of life.
Advice from literally all other experts advise the duck, cover and hold response during a quake: ducking under a table or desk or crouching next to an inside wall, covering your head with your hands and holding on to the table so it doesn't move away from you.
According to Copp, this is wrong. Most everyone who simply "ducks and covers" WHEN BUILDINGS COLLAPSE are crushed to death. That may be true in the Third World, where buildings do collapse in a big quake. It's advice that doesn't hold here in the US.
Director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and State Geologist Jon Price says American building codes result in structures that don't collapse. The danger is what's in the buildings: non-structural items like lighting fixtures and heavy objects on shelves.
"That's why duck, cover and hold is the correct response. You're protecting yourself from those falling objects."
Among Copp's other advice: get outside if you can. That is another bad idea. "Cornices and sometimes the whole front of a building will collapse. We saw that happen in February in Wells. So to run outside would be really stupid."
If the Triangle of Life tips are more than questionable so is the source. Copp has gained a reputation for self promotion and exaggerated accomplishments. In a series of articles in the Albuquerque Journal in 2004 he was portrayed as having used the attack on the World Trade Center to boost his reputation. Showing up at ground zero with a film crew, but no credentials, being escorted off site and later claiming disability from his work in New York. He received $600,000 from the victim's compensation fund and was later accused of having made a fraudulent claim, and was investigated by the Justice Department.