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Why You Shouldn't Run Outside During an Earthquake

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"Running is one of the most dangerous things you can do," explained Brian Humphrey, Spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department and a previous Community Emergency Response Team instructor. "People can lose their lives when they run, especially when windows or glass mirrors are near. You should duck, cover and hold."

Various videos surfaced yesterday on TV and online of people doing the exact opposite. People ran, something that could be disastrous in a larger earthquake. The "duck, cover and hold" is sort of a mantra to ingrain in your head. "Find something to duck under or get near an interior wall, cover your head with your hands, sacrifice your arms [a contorted window can spray glass when it snaps], and hold on," says Humphrey.

Of course, ultimately, this will not always be the case Humphrey admits. There will always be situations, maybe a handful, where you want to run out of a room. One example: you work in a Nuclear Reactor.

"It is human instinct to run, but it has to be overcome," he further explains. "Impulsive actions will get you into trouble." Humphrey gives an example from the 1994 Northridge early morning earthquake: more people hurt themselves after surviving the quake by impulsively stepping out of bed onto the floor where shards of glass lay from broken windows. They became completely incapacitated.

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But what if you're outside? Stay there and watch for falling glass and overhead wires. If you're in a car, pull over slowly to a stop. But what if you're in an urban area with high rises such as downtown on the sidewalk? Then there are cases where running into the lobby or alcove to protect yourself from falling shattered glass, bricks and other objects flying through windows. There are over 800 high rises in Los Angeles, so as Batman first learned, "mind your surroundings."

And as for the old habit of running to a doorway? Humphreys says not anymore. "We don't recommend the doorways any more -- knuckles get smashed."