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Candidate for poster child of what-not-to-do-in-an-earthquake

June 24, 2010 @ 11:23 By: gordon Category: Current affairs, In the news

This morning’s Ottawa Metro has a cover story entitled “Shaken and stirred”. It’s accompanied by a photo of Ian Vallance wearing a suit jacket and nothing else. According to the story, he’s a lawyer who was changing into his court garb when the earthquake hit. Instead of grabbing his clothes and shoes, he “just ran out of the office”.

This was probably one of the worst things he could have done and the next quote from him in the story demonstrates why:

“When we ran out, that’s when all the bricks fell down.” — Ian Vallance

It’s not unusual for things to fall off buildings. If you’re standing in the street, you’re at risk of being hit by falling debris and seriously hurt or worse. And if you’re not wearing any shoes, you may find yourself walking on broken glass.

Probably the best thing he could have done would been to have sought shelter in a doorway or under his desk, rather than run into the street in nothing but his underwear.

No argument from me that earthquakes are scary things and sometimes the fight-or-flight response that harkens back to the days when we lived in caves and hunted sabre tooth tigers (or were hunted by sabre tooth tigers) kicks in. If it does you have to try to resist running out of the building to where you’re likely to be in more danger than if you stayed put.

4 Responses to “Candidate for poster child of what-not-to-do-in-an-earthquake”


  1. Having gone to school on the west coast, I got to learn two things at a relatively young age:

    1. In the event of an earthquake in a civilized place (i.e Canada, USA that sort of thing), the first priority is to protect yourself from debris. Stand in a doorway or under a large, heavy and relatively stable object like a desk or bed. Cover your head as best you can. In my case, when I recognized what was happening, I stood in the open doorway between my house and garage.

    2. After an earthquake be prepared for evacuation and know the tsunami evacuation route for your area.

    The second one doesn’t really apply here, but the first one does. Most people don’t realize that the danger from earthquakes in Canada / US is not from the building falling down around you, but from little crap falling off the buildings as they shake: chimney bricks, telephone poles, falling hydro towers and wires, cars going off the road, that sort of thing. If you’re outside you’re actually at MORE risk of being injured than if you’re inside standing in a doorway (because it’s sturdy) or under a desk etc.

    Definitely what this guy in the photo did was NOT the appropriate response to the situation.

    • gordon says:

      I was at work when it hit, so I got away from the windows in my office and sought refuge in the doorway of the firestairs.

  2. Martin says:

    I was also at work. I tried to ignore the earthquake as best as I could and concentrated on why memcpy was causing a SIGSEGV. About the time the earthquake stopped shaking the building, I figured out that the type definition passed to the sizeof() call was the wrong type.

    Shortly thereafter I though that maybe I should have stripped down to my underwear, taken off my shoes, throe my office chair through the nearest window, then jump out following it calling ‘Yeeeehhhhaaahhh”…. and hope for the best.

    But it was too late, so I just ran gcc and got on with the next bug.



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