Earthquake and Flee from 18th Floor

At around 3:00 PM, it is clear that everyone feels dizzy on the 18th floor of the building. The feeling is similar with what I felt in 1996 on the same campus. I immediately ask the whole company to recuse from the building – I am happy that we are the first company in the building to flee to the outside. – The security looks puzzled when they saw us running down the fire stairs. I will talk more when I get back home from work. (We run so fast, and I didn’t bring my camera and mobile phone with me).

Everything is safe, but I don’t know what is happening in the center of the earthquake.

Update May 12, 2008

Now I am back to my small white table in my living room in my home. It is already confirmed that the earthquake happened in Wenchuan near Chengdu, at 7.8 magnitude. It is more than 2000 km away from Shanghai, but we felt the shack so clearly in Shanghai.

What to Do During Earthquake

The last time I felt earthquake is back in 1996 in Shanghai, when I was in grade 2 of Shanghai Jiaotong University. It was a stronger earthquake than this one (as felt from where I stayed). We were in the dorm at floor 6.

When we felt dizzy, and felt many furnitures in the rooms are moving, everyone rushed out of the room. At that time, I made a choice that I felt very regret at that moment, although it is the right action to take.

Because of the expectation of Luoyang to have a big earthquake within 10 years, the earthquake education in Luoyang was pretty good, and I was told the best place to stay during earthquake is the rest room. There are several reasons:

  • It is small in space, and concentration of building structures, so it is the strongest part of most residential building.
  • It has water if you are trapped, so you can survive longer.
  • It has long line of water pipes. Even if you are buried in the building, you can make some noise with the pipe so others can help you.

So, I grasped another friend and rushed into the washroom. Guess what happened?

At the very beginning, we heard many people rushing around and the whole building is very noise. They all rushed to the stairs to get out of the building.

Within 1 minute, the whole building is deadly silent, and there are only two people still in the building – my friend and myself. The worse thing is, the earthquake is stronger and stronger – it is obviously a bad idea to rush out to the stairs at this time.

So I understood that if the building did collapse, there will be only two people injured – my friend and me.

We are lucky that the earthquake passed very quickly, and when everything is fine, we are the last two person got out of the building.

Well. Today, and according to most instructions, we did the right thing, but…. I swear that I firmly believed that we made a wrong decision at that time…

This earthquake reminds me of the same thing. What is your choice the next time? To follow the majority or follow the “right” way?

The Current Earthquake

There is no report about the causality or injures in Wenchuan. I guess it will be another big number. It is too bad. My best wishes that after the recent many accidents in China, people get more experienced and can take more efficient action to rescue the people there.

20 thoughts on “Earthquake and Flee from 18th Floor

  1. According to Chinese superstition, earthquake is ominous foretelling something big and bad is up.

    First the snowstorm trapped millions, then the deadly disease infected hundreds of thousands, now the earthquake is shaking millions. What is next?

    Anyone dare to visit Beijing during Olympics?

  2. @ shanghai-ren:

    Though it’s fairly inappropriate to gloat over other people’s misfortune, I do see some grain of truth in your posting. Having initially being considered the most auspicious year in the new millennium, 2008 has in reality turned out to be the most horrible one so far.

    Is this the Almighty’s form of punishing the incompetent Chinese leaders? I wish it was, but unfortunately it isn’t because it’s not the leaders who are affected most but the people of China. I guess the only effective wake-up call would be an incident that causes Zhongnanhai or some of the other regional government headquarters to crumble.

  3. No one should gloat over the loss of innocent lives or the damage to innocent people’s properties.

    I am more concerned about the collapse of the infrastructure (buildings, roads, etc) and the ensuing coverup since everyone konws how those projects are built. (Government officials pocket the big kickbacks while the builders use low-quality materials and below-standard procedures to make up for the profit margin.)

    Things may unfold faster than anyone can imagine!

  4. Glad to hear that everything is safe in your area. It is a sign of a good boss that you put concern for employee safety ahead of concern over productivity.

    Also, I hope they are able to rescue the 900 students that are trapped. Maybe we can lay this torch controversy aside as the world joins in to help aid the people of Sichuan.

  5. I was in Qingpu District and didn’t feel a thing.

    As for running or hiding, who knows what’s right. On one hand, if the building falls while you’re trying to get out, you could die. On the other hand, if you’re in the building when it falls, you could die.

    But of course if the exit is near me, I’d run.

  6. One of my very close friends and colleagues (who lives and works not far from the epicentre) is still missing and we fear greatly for his safety. We cannot raise him by phone. My prayers to him and his family.

  7. According to a friend of mine who used to work for the Red Cross in Los Angeles, the reason people shouldn’t run and stand in a doorway or run out of the building is that most injuries occur when people are moving. Since the ground and the floor is shaking, it’s hard to keep stable footing while moving, and people fall down and break their bones.

  8. I am living in Chongqing. When it happened at around 14:30, I was lying in bed and reading a book. Everything just come out so fast plus I’ve never been in this sort of situation, when I felt dizzy and saw the pendant chandeliers in the next room swing in an almost 60 degree. I was shocked. All I knew was to flee from the 19th floor. And fortunately there is no damage except one resident forgot the fire and caused a very limit lost.

  9. I hope many people escape or are rescued, and my heart goes out to China.

    I don’t know whether the rest room is the best place, or to go down the stairs,

    but if you can find the right answer, please tell us. However, please consider

    another thought. Does your company/school practice good fire drills? It is

    important to evacuate safely, but also to assemble together and count the

    escapees. Otherwise it might not be possible to identify who is trapped inside.

    Many firefighters or rescue workers have lost their lives going into buildings

    when the survivors have already escaped–this of course was true also in New

    York on 9/11. Please consider the importance of appointing fire wardens,

    keeping track of building occupants, and assembling and counting the escapees.

    This is a simple precaution that is usually overlooked, and it needs leadership

    and practice to enforce the habit.

    Another thought is that technology companies bear a special responsibility in

    such disasters. The mobile phone network collapsed in Sichuan; some 2,300

    towers fell down in the earthquake, and the system was jammed. The technology

    is available to transmit radio signals from handset to handset, bypassing the towers,

    but it has not been put into place anywhere and so cannot be used when it is needed

    in such a disaster. In America it will not be implemented because of the dominance

    of the big cellphone companies. Could Chinese companies respond to the challenge?

    Would the PRC government cooperate by ceding some power away from the big

    Chinese telecommunications companies and delegating some power to the local users?

    Most mobile phones are made in China, why can’t China solve this problem and make

    money from it as well as saving lives?

    A third thought is to improve earthquake forecasting. You can see here that there are

    traditional means of earthquake forecasting:

    However, most of these reports are after the fact so maybe superstition. More importantly,

    there was a recent failure of an expensive forecast system in Japan. It is easy to hook a

    seismograph to a networked computer. Wouldn’t the signal travel on the Internet faster

    than through the earth? We need to improve this forecasting system. Cannot talented

    Chinese engineers tackle this problem and solve it where Japanese have not?

    Right now we must deal with the suffering of the survivors. Later this will be forgotten.

    Will the lessons be learned? Earthquakes, typhoons, fires, happen infrequently. Most

    people are fatalistic, someone else is accountable. I think if you want to live happily

    you must think now about these things; during an earthquake you will be too dizzy to

    decide whether to run down stairs or hide in the bathroom.

  10. 7.8 is a HUGE magnitude for an earthquake! Sadly, I suspect that these early reports of damage and lives lost will multiply many times in the next few days.

    That said, AussiePB, keep hope for your friend and his family! Effective communication will be impossible for a long time from that area. As joe.shuren just said, hand-radios will be helpful, but most telephone systems will be completely ineffective for quite a while.

    I will keep all those affected in my thoughts, and of course, Jian Shuo, it goes without saying that we are all very glad to hear that you and your family were not affected by this disaster!

  11. I feel so sad today with all the natural disasters in the world. First, Burma with the typhoon and now China with this earthquake. May all beings be free from suffering.

  12. @joe.shuren

    A system to measure accumulated tensions in tectonic plaques and seismic faults could be build to give a measure of energy accumulated on earth, and possible strength and like hood of earthquakes. I think it is already done in Japan.

    Areas can be assigned risk levels according to measurements from such a system. Risk levels will in turn define construction standards and city planing for areas where risk is high or severe.

    Same thing for education standards in school and adult people on correct behavior and protection measures during earthquakes.

    Redundancies and duplications should be build in transportation, telecommunication and electric power distribution infrastructures in high risk areas.

    Same thing should be done with in medical facilities and any installation necessary for providing first help in case of major earthquake.

  13. Jian Shuo, I’m happy to hear that the team and you are safe. My thoughts are with you guys.

  14. Hello Does anyone feel something in Guangzhou, I waas in the bank but i didnt.


  15. I read an article from a rescue expert a few years ago. The best place to be during earth quake would be in fetal position right next to a large piece of furniture or big stack of paper. The reason why is because these large object, or paper will take the blunt from the fallen debris, and make a little bit of survival room for you right next to the object or paper. During Earth Quake, what causes the most fatality and injuries are the large debris fallen on the victims. Of course, it will help if you can at least put a blanket or thick clothing over your head or body to minimize the exposed body parts to avoid as much debris as possible.

    It is very dangerous to be anywhere near the door way, because the door frame can collapse and cut you in half. If you did not get out in time, stay away from the stair ways. Do not ever go under a bed, or desk, because this objects can collapse under weight, and smashed you. Next to it is the best place to be. I think it is call the “Triangle of survival” If you are working in the office, the printing room is great, because usually, they have plenty of paper, and paper compress very little, so, your chance of surviving it is much better.

    I hope this one day help someone in need.

  16. I live in chile, where the earth moves a lot and I mean A LOT. the last big quake the we had, was 8.8 and it was horrible because the noise is unbearable. You can hardly hear yourself and that’s why it’s good to have a plan. Back then, I lived in the third floor and I ran as fast as I could but when I got there I realize I couldn’t even walk straight. That’s why running it’s not a very good choice, plus the quake is everywhere! But now I live on the 18th floor and I really don’t know what to do because the idea of the building collapsing puts my nerves on the edge. Why should I do??? And I really need an answer because a few hours ago we had a 6.0 and my apartment move like a boat. Pliz help me!!!!!

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