Earthquake Awareness / Preparedness

“Drop, Cover, Hold”


The Recommended Earthquake Protection Method

In recent years, an E-mail has been circulating that describes the “triangle of life,” an alternative to the long-established “Drop, Cover, and Hold” advise. “Drop, Cover, Hold” is still the official recommendation in the United States by many experts including State Emergency Management, the Red Cross, and the Lewis County Division of Emergency Management.

Earthquakes seldom cause complete building collapse in the United States. The greatest danger is from falling or flying objects. The “Drop, Cover, and Hold” technique is designed to provide the greatest protection from this type of situation.

The “triangle of life” and some of the other actions recommended in the E-mail may not be the best action to take. Additional information discussing the “triangle of life” is available at: Send this information to your loved-ones and anyone that sends you the “triangle of life” E-mail.

Why Is “Drop, Cover and Hold” Recommended?

  • The “duck and cover” protection approach was developed to protect occupants from falling hazards, the greatest danger to the U.S. population during an earthquake. Earthquake events result in more injuries from falling hazards (unsecured furniture and building materials), not overall building collapse. The space under a study table or desk is likely to remain. Pictures from around the world show tables and desks standing with rubble all around them. Tables even hold up floors that have collapsed! “Drop, Cover and Hold” under a table increases the chance of ending up in a survivable void space during an earthquake.
  • Trying to move during shaking puts you at risk: Earthquakes occur without any warning and may be so violent that you cannot run or crawl; therefore, you will most likely be knocked to the ground. It is best to “Drop” before the earthquake drops you. Find nearby shelter or use your arms and hands to “Cover” your head and neck. “Hold” on to your shelter and move with it if it shifts. “Drop, Cover, and Hold” gives you the best overall chance of quickly protecting yourself during an earthquake … even during quakes that cause furniture to move about rooms.
  • The greatest danger is from falling and flying objects. You are much more likely to be injured by TVs, lamps, glass, bookcases, etc.
  • Building collapse is less of a danger. Images of collapsed structures in earthquakes get the most attention from the media, but most United States construction requirements prevent buildings from collapse during earthquakes.

Having an action plan that you have thought about in advance of an earthquake enhances the probability you will make the best decision to prevent injuries. Follow these recommendations during an earthquake:


  • Drop, Cover, Hold” under a sturdy table.
  • Stay away from windows, objects that could fall.
  • Kitchen: Move away from refrigerator, stove, and overhead cabinets.


  • Move to a clear area away from trees, signs, building, and electrical wires


  • Move away from building fronts
  • Protect yourself against falling bricks, glass and other debris

Crowded Store

  • Do NOT rush from the exits
  • Move away from displace shelves
  • "Drop, Cover and Hold"


  • Slowly pull over to the side of the road and stop
  • Avoid overpasses, power lines. Stay in the car until the shaking stops


  • Stay in the wheelchair.
  • Move to a safe cover, lock your wheels.
  • Protect your head with your arms (this is the only time you might use a doorway).

Theater or stadium:

  • If possible, get under the seat. If not, stay in your seat.
  • “Cover” your head with your arms.
  • Do not attempt to leave until the shaking stops.

Data from three University-based studies performed after the Loma Prieta (September, 1989) and Northridge (January, 1994) earthquakes in California indicated Loma Prieta (63 deaths, approximately 3,700 injured) and Northridge (57 deaths, 1500 serious injuries) benefited from “Drop, Cover and Hold”. Most injuries were broken bones from falls or broken-glass cuts to bare feet caused by people rushing to leave their homes. There were millions of people in each of these earthquake-affected areas that reported to have “Dropped, Covered, and Held on” during the shaking of the earthquake.

Methods like standing in a doorway, running outside, and some “triangle of life” techniques may increase injury risk and are not recommended in the United States. Official rescue teams that have searched for trapped people after earthquakes, promote the “Drop, Cover, and Hold” method in the United States. Endorsement of “Drop, Cover, and Hold” is also given by emergency managers, researches, and school safety advocates.

What Rescuers and Experts “DO NOT” Recommend You Do During An Earthquake

  • DO NOT run outside or to other rooms during shaking. The area near the exterior walls of a building is the most dangerous place to be. Windows, facades and architectural details are often the first parts of the building to collapse. Stay away from the danger zone. Also, shaking can be so strong that you will not be able to move far without falling down.
  • DO NOT stand in a doorway. In modern houses, doorways are no stronger than any other part of the house. The doorway does not protect you from the most likely source of injury, falling or flying objects. And, doorways usually only accommodate one person.
  • DO NOT get out of your car and lay next to it. This is very dangerous because the car can move and crush you, and other drivers may not see you on the ground.

For the best opportunity to reduce injury risk and improve your chances of survival in an earthquake, practice the following:

  • DROP down onto your hands and knees (before the earthquake knocks you down). This position protects you from falling, but allows you to still move if necessary.
  • COVER your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won’t fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  • HOLD ON to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts.

Additional preparedness information is available