‘Drop, Cover and Hold On’ or ‘Triangle of Life’ Attributes of Information Sources Influencing Earthquake Protective Actions

‘Drop, Cover and Hold On’ or ‘Triangle of Life’ Attributes of Information Sources Influencing Earthquake Protective Actions

Sudha Arlikatti Shih-Kai Huang Chin-Hsien Yu Chunlin Hua

Rabdan Academy, United Arab Emirates.

Jacksonville State University, USA.

Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, China.

Southwestern University of Science and Technology, China.

Available online: 
| Citation



A well-known fact is that an earthquake or earth shaking does not cause injuries and deaths. rather, buildings and infrastructure systems collapsing on people do. Hence, reputable government organiza- tions from countries prone to high earthquake risks are heavily invested in advising their populations on immediate lifesaving protective actions (PAs). One such action is the ‘Drop, Cover and Hold on’ strategy proven to have saved countless lives. unfortunately, in recent years another action known as the ‘Triangle of life’ has been trolled through internet sites and hearsay. It is believed that adopting such an unsubstantiated erroneous action is likely to put people at greater risk during an earthquake. Thus, there is a need to extend studies to understand factors that influence people’s decisions to take certain PAs over another for earthquakes. This research does that through an empirical study of 647 residents from mianyang City in the Sichuan province of China. The results indicate that if a PA is easy to understand, mentioned often by multiple sources and easy to access, then people will adopt it. but a striking finding is that people are also likely to be influenced by wrong information, depending on who is providing such information and through which medium (e.g. social media). These findings suggest that the Chinese government needs to provide gate keepers who are dedicated, trained personnel who can monitor misinformation on various Internet sites and address them. In parallel they can provide regular, up to date public advisories on immediate PA through multiple legitimate government, private and non-profit sector sources and channels.


drop, cover and hold on, earthquake protective actions, information sources, risk communication, triangle of life.


[1] EM-DAT: The Emergency Events Database - Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) -CRED, D. Guha-Sapir - www.emdat.be, Brussels, Belgium.

[2] Mahue-Giangreco, M., Mack, W., Seligson, H. & Bourque, L.B., Risk factors associated with moderate and serious injuries attributable to the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, Los Angeles, California. Annals of Epidemiology, 11(5), pp. 347–357, 2001. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1047-2797(01)00220-4

[3] Lindell, M.K., Arlikatti, S. & Prater, C.S., Why people do what they do to protect against earthquake risk: Perceptions of hazard adjustments and their attributes. Risk Analysis, 29(8), pp. 1072–1088, August 2009. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2009.01243.x

[4] Earthquake Country Alliance, How to protect yourself during an earthquake, http://earthquakecountry.org/dropcoverholdon/ (accessed 29 May 2018).

[5] United States Geological Survey (USGS), What is the triangle of life and is it legitimate? https://usgs.gov/faqs/what-triangle-life-and-it-legitimate?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products (accessed 29 May 2018).

[6] Great Shakeout Earthquake Drills, Get ready to shakeout, https://shakeout.org/(accessed 29 May 2018).

[7] Xin, H., Qing-yang, Z., Liang, W., jia, Z., Yin-han, W., Yi, Z. & Jin-jin, G., Can ‘Triangle of life’ save lives during earthquake? Orient Fire Prot., 5, pp. 52–53, 2013.

[8] China Earthquake Administration, How to respond to an earthquake (10)—at home, China Earthquake Administration. 2008. http://cea.gov.cn/publish/dizhenj/468/807/666/20120209162843109263624/index.html (accessed 20 March 2018).

[9] Xiao, R., Comments on the triangle of life myth. Overv. Disaster Prev., 6, pp. 72–75, 2016.

[10] Xinhuanet, The myths of earthquake responses in the reality. Emergency Management Office, the People’s Government of Guangdong Province, 2016. http://gdemo.gov.cn/zt/2016fanzgai/zspj/yjzs/201605/t20160511_228746.htm (accessed 20 March 2018).

[11] Arlikatti, S., Lindell, M.K. & Prater, C.S., Perceived stakeholder role relationships and adoption of seismic hazard adjustments. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 25(3), pp. 218–256, 2007.

[12] Olson, J.M. & Maio, G.R., Attitudes in social behaviour. In Handbook of Psychology,eds. M.J. Lerner and M.T. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley Sons, Inc., pp. 299–325, 2003.

[13] Lindell, M.K. & Perry, R.W., The protective action decision model: Theoretical modifications and additional evidence. Risk Analysis, 32(4), pp. 616–632, April 2012. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01647.x

[14] Shah, J., Automatic for the people: How representations of significant others implicitly affect goal pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), pp. 661–681, April 2003. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.661

[15] Lindell, M.K. & Perry, R.W., Communicating Environmental Risk in Multiethnic Communities, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004.

[16] Bandura, A., Social-learning theory of indentificatory processes. In Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research, ed. D.A. Skokie. IL: Goslin. Rand McNally & Company, pp. 213–262, 1969.

[17] Lindell, M.K. & Perry, R.W., Behavioral Foundations of Community Emergency Planning, Washington, DC: Hemisphere Press, 1992.

[18] Lindell, M.K., Prater, C.S., Wu, H.C. & Huang, S.K., Perceptions and Expected Responses to a Water Contamination Emergency. Texas A&M University Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, College Station TX, 2010.

[19] Wei, H.L., Lindell, M.K., Prater, C.S., Wei, J., Wang, F. & Ge, Y., Perceived stakeholder characteristics and protective action for influenza emergencies: a comparative study of respondents in the United States and China. International Journal of Mass Emergencies & Disasters, 36(1), pp. 52–70, March 2018.

[20] O’Reilly, C.A., Variations in decision makers’ use of information sources: the impact of quality and accessibility of information. Academy of Management Journal, 25(4), pp. 756–771, December 1982. https://doi.org/10.5465/256097

[21] Taibah, H., Arlikatti, S. & Andrew, S., Risk communication for religious crowds: preferences of Hajj Pilgrims. Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, 27(1), pp. 102–114, Febraury 2018. https://doi.org/10.1108/dpm-09-2017-0215

[22] Flanagin, A.J. & Metzger, M.J., The credibility of volunteered geographic information. GeoJournal, 72(3–4), pp. 137–148, August 2008. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-008-9188-y

[23] Sichuan Statistics Bureau. Sichuan Statistical Yearbook 2017, available at: http://tongji.cnki.net/kns55/Navi/result.aspx?id=N2017120239&file=N2017120239000223&floor=1

[24] Lindell, M.K., Mumpower, J., Wu, H.C. & Huang, S.K., Perceptions and Expected Responses to a Water Contamination Emergency, Texas A&M University Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, College Station TX. 2010.

[25] Lindell, M.K. & Whitney, D.J., Correlates of seismic hazard adjustment adoption. Risk Analysis, 20(1), pp. 13–26, February 2000. https://doi.org/10.1111/0272-4332.00002

[26] Huang, S.K., Lindell, M.K. & Prater, C.S., Who leaves and who stays? A review and statistical meta-analysis of hurricane evacuation studies. Environment and Behavior48(8), pp. 991–1029, October 2016. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916515578485 224 S. Arlikatti, et al., Int. J. of Safety and Security Eng., Vol. 9, No. 3 (2019)

[27] Lindell, M.K. & Prater, C.S., Household adoption of seismic hazard adjustments: A comparison of residents in two states. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, 18(2), pp. 317–338, August 2000.

[28] Janis, I.L., Victims of Groupthink: A Psychological Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascoes, Oxford, England: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.

[29] Luyt, B., Zainal, C.Z.B.C., Mayo, O.V.P. & Yun, T.S., Young people’s perceptions and usage of wikipedia. Information Research, 13(4), pp. 1–13, December 2008. http://InformationR.net/ir/13-4/paper377.html

[30] Huang, S.K., Lindell, M.K. & Prater, C.S., Multistage model of hurricane evacuation decision: empirical study of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Natural Hazards Review, 18(3), p. 05016008, November 2017. https://doi.org/10.1061/(asce)nh.1527-6996.0000237

[31] Keller, C., Siegrist, M. & Gutscher, H., The role of the affect and availability heuristics in risk communication. Risk Analysis, 26(3), pp. 631–639, June 2006. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2006.00773.x

[32] Fischhoff, B., Lichtenstein, S., Slovic, P., Derby, S.L. & Keeney, R.L., Acceptable Risk, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

[33] Armitage, C.J. & Conner, M., Social cognition models and health behaviour: A structured review. Psychology & Health, 15(2), pp. 173–189, March 2000. https://doi.org/10.1080/08870440008400299

[34] Tata, J., Anthony, T., Lin, H., Newman, B., Tang, S., Millson, M. & Sivakumar, K., Proportionate group size and rejection of the deviate: A meta analytic integration. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 11, pp. 739–752, January 1996.

[35] Petty, R.E. & Cacioppo, J.T., The elaboration likelihood model of persuasion. In Communication and Persuasion. Springer Series in Social Psychology, New York, NY: Springer, 1986, pp. 1–24.

[36] Kapferer, J.N., Rumors- Uses, Interpretations, and Images, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990.