Triangles of Life: Sound Advice or Dangerous Myth?

Since 2004, an email has made the rounds every few years, continuing to spread an idea – specifically, “Triangles of Life” – that has been debunked countless times by a variety of agencies. If you have already heard this story and know that the best practice in an emergency is “drop, cover, and hold on” – thank you. Please continue to share the truth, or just share this link.

The challenge with this theory, as with so many forwarded email “concerns” or “solutions,” is keeping the best practices more well-known and used than the falsehoods. For the sake of everyone’s safety, please practice and teach “drop, cover, and hold on” any time there is an earthquake.

The “Triangles of Life,” purported by Doug Copp, has been circulating since 2004. It was quickly called into question by many United States agencies. In short, the “Triangles of Life” states that in the event of an earthquake, the safest place to be is next to large pieces of sturdy furniture, which will have a void created when the ceiling collapses. If you’ve already begun your own online search, you will see postings about this topic on Wikipedia, Snopes, and the American Red Cross.  In short, all of these sites share the exact same advice for safety protocol in an earthquake: duck, cover, and hold on!

The INCORRECT way to protect yourself during an earthquake (“Triangles of Life”):

The CORRECT way to protect yourself (from the Great ShakeOut official website):

Best safety practices can be easily shared, and in our digital age, it is easier to share ideas than ever before. When it comes to safety, be sure that what you share is accurate, even if it requires a bit of personal research before hitting “forward.” With all of the information available today and a computer in everyone’s pocket, fake news has become a concerning trend in various media formats. Our ability to research and validate the latest information can be an action that separates life-saving practices from unnecessary risk.


Dan Dworkin

Director of Infrastructure and Assessment