Don't run for the doorway: Debunking earthquake myths

A 4.4 magnitude earthquake hit the Los Angeles area this morning. Yesterday, northern Chile was rocked by a 6.7 bone shaker. This seems like a nice time to link to Michelle Lanz' piece from earlier this year chronicling some common earthquake myths. One big one: Doorways aren't actually sanctuary. That idea has its origins in a time and place where most houses were made out of adobe. Today, you're better off dropping to the floor and crawling underneath something sturdy.

Notable Replies

  1. I want to correct what I think is an error in the text here, perhaps even another myth that needs debunking. We are told to seek cover underneath a sturdy object, but it's much, much better to seek cover NEXT TO a sturdy object. When the roof comes down, the sturdy object will be compressed with you under it, but it you are next to the sturdy object there is more likely to be a small space you that you can survive in until you either crawl out or rescue teams arrive.

    I think the sturdy piece of furniture idea is to keep objects from falling on your head, and for that I'm sure it works quite well. However, if the building is in danger of coming down, please place yourself next to the sturdy object or better yet, just get outside fast. Here's an article that seems to share the key concepts:

  2. My house was destroyed in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. By destroyed I mean that it fell off it's foundations (and got super wonky), had windows pop out, shatter, etc. I don't mean it collapsed entirely. But, everything not bolted down did end up as a giant pile in the center of the room. Every canned good, plated, spice jar, etc. was piled on the kitchen floor. Every book shelf (and book) ended up in the middle of the room. An aquarium flew off a dresser and shattered, propelling glass (and fish) everywhere. Had I not run to a door, I think my chanced of injury would have been much greater. Part of this isn't necessarily about the structure of a door frame, but because, as a passageway, there weren't really any objects to fall on me. Slamming doors are a concern though.

Continue the discussion

5 more replies