A small Blue Ridge quake had diverted the spring at my farm. A big California quake, the Loma Prieta, dropped a freeway overpass, and scared the bejeebus out of San Francisco Bay area folks.
1989. I was there.
That dark early morning, I wake in a sweaty tangle of bedding, heart careening, hearing the animal terror of the dream -- pounding hooves, paws, neighing, shrieking, bellowing, animals stampeding in terror. My body is trembling, sound beyond sound, rending. I can’t stop the body-panic, and haven’t a clue.
Chamomile tea? Check. Cal/Mag? Check. Sit down, for goodness sake, and slow my breathing? Check. But trembling increases through the morning
The quake hits in the afternoon, a unified field of silent-scream-riveted-everyone, on unsafe ground. Then the diving under whatever, and running as though pursued.
I had made it to a class in clinical psych; classmates ignored my trembling. I managed a not-to-worry attempt at a smile when the professor had a look at the lump, moi, quavering in my usual chair.
We had just stretched up out of our seats for break when - BOOM - the building moves in ways the bod understands before the mind does. People dolphin under desks (more on the wisdom of that in a moment.) I grab the wrist of the classmate next to me and haul ass and her out of the building, far from structures.
The atmosphere feels like midst of heat lightning, murked with fear. Solid ground, never again that certainty after today, is heaving in rolling waves like disturbed cream or jello. Waves lifting and dropping us, lifting again, like standing on a surfboard as waves billow and trough. Crashes, booms, shattering glass, utility poles swaying like cheerleaders, cars tossed in the air and thudding down, bouncing. For one brief dreadful moment, everyone is here, now. Aurora-esque flashes of shimmering gold as people realize that they, the earth -- still, still breathing.
Am revisiting the arghhh of the Loma Prieta Quake, for the Napa Valley has just shuddered to life with a 6.0 on the Richter scale, 24. Aug., 2014; soon followed by greater quake in Peru.
Those who live on the San Andreas fault, many of them, have backpacks of emergency food, water, flashlight by their beds, and scan for exits in any building, as the normal for a daily, highly charged ambient surround. If a quake were to hit on the New Madrid Fault, up the mighty Mississippi, however, it would be another scene altogether.
Doug Copp, of American Rescue Team International, is a first responder in quakes. He and his team burrow in after the living (many of whom are found in triangular-shaped areas of collapse.) He also finds the squashed, who sought shelter under desks and doorways.
Desk-diving in earthquake, or thermonuclear war, it turns out, has not been a brilliant bit of official wisdom. Nor will it likely be retracted by officialdom. Not to put too fine a Public Health point on it: due to liability.
So, the earth shakes. Everything contemplated, while calm, quick-morphs into panic. Keep it simple -- getting out of the Twin Towers was a strong survival move.
Get out of a shaking building, if you can, and away from falling masonry. Help others.
A distillate of Doug Copp's hands-on, debris-sifting experience follows, with detailed recommendations:
1) Q: Why is it called the "triangle of life?"
A: If you look closely at collapsed buildings either in pictures or on TV you will rapidly discover that you see 'triangular spaces' formed throughout collapsed structures. It is as natural and normal as gravity or the 'shape of snowflakes'. They are formed everywhere around objects when buildings collapse.
2) Q: Why has it taken Doug Copp 23 years to eliminate "Duck and Cover?"
A: If Galileo could come back from the dead he would ask why some people still believe that the earth is the center of the universe, the world is flat, people should be 'bled' to allow demons to escape from the body and man never landed on the moon.
As Schopenhauer, the German Philosopher, said: 'The path of all truth is first to be ridiculed, secondly to be violently opposed and thirdly to be accepted as 'self-evident'.
3) Q: What are the 15 safest places to be in an earthquake? (The places most people survive.)
A: 1) Outside in the middle of a field where nothing can fall on top of you.
2) Outside in the middle of the street where falling glass can't reach you.
3) On a seismic resistant platform such as a boat.
4) On the top floor of a wooden building.
5) On the top floor of a concrete building
6) in the space between 2 large objects (between twin beds, between 2 cars, between 2 rows of desks).
7) Next to an office bank vault or stack of paper.
8) Next to a squashed vehicle
9) At the foot of a bed
10) In front of a hotel lobby counter or bar counter.
11) In front of a sofa.
12) Next to Kitchen Cabinets
13) Next to a big bulky object like a piece of machinery, fridge, stove.
14) Next to a large carrying beam
15) In the subterranean exterior perimeter of a building.
4) Q: Where are the 15 deadliest places to be in an earthquake? (The places where most dead victims are recovered from or simply the most lethal.)
A: 1) Under an object that gets squashed (like a desk, car, bed)
2) Inside of an object that gets squashed (like a car)
3) On top of an object that gets squashed (like a bed or sofa)
4) Inside of an elevator
5) On stairs.
6) More than 10 ft away from the outside of a building and on the ground floor
7) In a brick building less than 10 ft from the outside wall.
8) In a doorway of a collapsed building.
10) On the ground floor of any building.
11) Under a carrying beam.
12) Under an object with a high center of gravity that fell over in the earthquake (like a fridge.
13) The middle decks of highway overpasses.
14) Places that catch fire after collapsing.
15) Places with toxins, chemicals and gases that collapse.
5) Q: What is "frequency of moment?"
A: This convoluted term is meant to explain the resultant third force from 2 objects which are swinging out of synch with each other. If the swinging lasts long enough and the force of the earthquake is strong enough then the smaller object will break into pieces at the joints and collapse( such as, stairs moving out of synch with the rest of the building.)
6) Q: What do I do in a multi-story building?
A: Be calm; lay down, in a fetal position next to a bed or sofa. When the earthquake has stopped and the building has not collapsed DO NOT MOVE! DO NOT GO TO THE STAIRS! Wait until all the panicked people have fled down the stairs. If the stairs haven't collapsed under all the combined weight of panicked, fleeing people then you know that they will be safe for you to go on. If you can, then wait for an expert to inspect the stairs before putting weight on them.
7) Q: What do I do in a basement?
A: Basements are relatively safe if you are near the outside perimeter of the subterranean area. The center of the basement area is very unsafe. Typically the walls fall outward and downward until the forces reach the subterranean area. At this point the lateral force is stopped by bedrock and is reflected inward. For example: The outside perimeter under the World trade Center had huge voids where thousands of people would have been safe; whereas, the center core area was so pulverized that it crushed the subway car to an inch thick. You can see this video at www.amerrescue.org
8) Q: What do I do on a highway?
A: Pull your car to the side of the road. Do NOT stop under an overpass or something that can fall on your car.
9) Q: What about the glass windows in a multi-story building?
A: Typically, glass is NOT a problem for the people inside the building. (It is like bursting a blown-up paper bag.) The glass blows outward as the air pressure inside of the building increases at the same time as the volume of the space decreases. If you are outside of the building then you should run away from the building into the middle of the street.
10) Q: Where is the deadliest place to be?
A: Most dead people are found squashed under a desk.
11) Q: How dangerous is it to search a collapsed building?
A: According to OSHA: 60% of 'rescuers' are killed going into their first confined space rescue.
12) Q: What are the 10 most important things that I really need in a safety kit? Which are NOT usually found in a emergency kit.
A:1) Chlorine to purify drinking water (usually there is lots of water; however, it is contaminated from sewer lines and water lines leaking and mixing together.). or O3 Liquid Oxygen purification and energizing and immune system booster drops.
2) Garbage bags (to use to protect your valuables, to cut out arm holes to make a raincoat, to keep your food safe from the weather and rats.)
3) 50 ft of nylon rope (to use to make a tent and other uses)
4) Plastic tarps (to protect your valuables, and to make a tent)
5) A Swiss Army Knife with lots of tools.
6) LED flashlight.
7) A hand crank generating radio
8) Energy bars in sealed bags
9) Baby wipes.
10) Emergen'c' powered multi-vitamin and mineral powders.
13) Q: Where is the best place to put an earthquake kit?
A: 1) On the roof of your house in a safe box.
2) In the trunk of your car
3) In a shipping container in the middle of your corporate workplace parking lot.
14) Q: What about books falling on you?
A: In 23 years I have never heard of a single individual getting killed by a falling book.
15) Q: What about ceiling fixtures falling on you?
A: They typically stay attached to the ceiling and don't fall away.
16) Q: Who will come to save my family in a major disaster?
A: You. You care more for and will do more for your family than anyone else will. In a major disaster the local 'forces' are overwhelmed. Do you really expect FEMA to save you?
17) Q: How do people get injured after the earthquake?
A: By falling objects. Solution: spend as much time looking up to see what is above you as you do walking over the rubble and looking at your feet.
18) Q: What do I do after a major earthquake stops?
A: Get ready for the next aftershock. Get in a safe place and stay safe.
Never go back inside of a building until 2 weeks-4 weeks after the initial earthquake.
19) Q: What do rescuers do when a major earthquake occurs?
A: 1) Think about their family.
2) Think about their duty to others.
20) Q: What type of structure is immune from earthquake collapse?
21) Q: How come nobody told us to stop going under doorways?
A: If somebody who had been telling you to go under doorways actually told you not to do it anymore then they would have to admit that they made a mistake and expose themselves to liability.
22) Q: What happens when schools collapse?
A: The legs snap when the ceiling falls on the desks. The ceiling doesn't break up because there are so many points of support. The ceiling stays intact and the weight snaps all the legs. You are left with rows of crushed desks and rows of wide open aisles to be safe in and escape to the outside by crawling through.
23) Q: How do I understand what an earthquake is?
A: Think of an earthquake as 2 extremely large misshapen and rough edged objects sliding past each other.. Sometimes they get 'hooked' or caught up together until the forces pulling one object and pushing the other object make them break free. This built up force that is released is the initial earthquake. The forces which continue until the 'rough' area has been completely cleared are aftershocks. Remember an earthquake is NOT a single seismic event. It is a period of time ( usually less than a month) when you can have hundreds if not thousands of aftershocks. Most of these aftershocks are tiny; however, you can have a larger aftershock than the initial earthquake. Stay outside and safe. Go on vacation.
24) Q: How do I understand the 'force' of an earthquake?
A: There are many hundreds of elements which determine how much force an earthquake will actually bring to your structure. A smaller magnitude earthquake can cause more damage than a larger magnitude earthquake if the smaller earthquake is closer to you or not as deep. Earthquakes under the Ocean have a lot of their energy absorbed by the Ocean itself. The type of soil is very important and the underground formations can cause earthquake energy to be amplified or even deflected from your area. I could write a book on this.
25) [missing from list]
26) Q: What about terrorist explosions?
A: The survivors are found in survivable voids (triangles of life) on the opposite side of the objects as the blast center.
27) Q: What about collapsed buildings in landslides?
A: If the building is collapsed and covered by the dirt or rocks of a landslide then you will survive in the same triangle of life or survivable voids; however, you must have air to breath. Plumbing pipes and other conduit can provide Oxygen to the victims trapped inside of the landslide; however, it is much more difficult for the rescuers to locate entry points into the buried rubble. You can see video of Doug Copp searching inside of collapsed buildings buried under a landslide at www.amerrescue.org
28) Q: What is the most important thing for a 'rescuer' to have after a major earthquake?
A: Have peace of mind that your family is safe because you told everyone about the triangle of life and the things you learned from this video, power point presentation and manual. This is necessary in order to do your duty to others than your family.
29) Q: What is the most important thing a survivor or rescuer needs immediately before and after a major earthquake?
A: Before: Purchase a 'Quake Alarm' device which does for earthquakes what smoke detectors do for fires. It will give you enough warning of an earthquake for you to take action to save your life. It sounds the alarm as a result of the non lethal pre-destructive waves; thereby, warning you before the building starts to collapse. For less than $20, it has already saved the lives of an entire school of children. www.amerrescue.org After: Proper attitude: Be calm, be patient, be focused and pay attention (This is just the beginning of the ordeal.)
30) Q: What is the most important thing that you have learned from your experiences at major disasters throughout the world?
A: All people look the same when they are squashed under a desk.