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Monday, January 13, 2014

What to Do If You're In a Skyscraper When the Big One Hits

Posted by on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 8:05 AM

Stay in it...

You’re stuck on the 25th floor of a skyscraper when a major earthquake hits. What should you do? Well, counter-intuitively for some, you should just be thankful… and move away from any filing cabinets that might fall over.

The fact is that for most earthquakes, tall buildings are usually the safest place to be. In Hong Kong, where I live, visitors often look at all the tall buildings and ask: “What would happen if there were an earthquake?” The answer is that they’d probably be much safer than if they were standing in a low-rise neighbourhood.

Your body will order you to run; but the truly rational thing to do is to disobey the body and stay where you are.
Modern high-rises, in low seismicity areas, are designed to withstand lateral loads from wind which may be much higher than those from earthquakes. In high seismicity areas they are most likely to have been designed for the seismic motion, and for very tall buildings having a long natural period (or a low frequency) will sway in a non-violent, but still a very alarming way
This information, however, is not new to hiphop; rappers and scratchers have long been aware of the boogie skills of tall buildings.
...And then he turned his power on and the ground began to move. And all the buildings for miles around were swaying to the groove.



Comments (18) RSS

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Fifty-Two-Eighty 1
Charles, would you please learn how to take a normal photo with that thing?
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on January 13, 2014 at 8:38 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 2
Not like you'd have much choice about staying in the skyscraper. Earthquakes last only a few seconds. If there's time to run down more than a couple of flights of stairs, it's the apocalypse.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 13, 2014 at 9:15 AM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 3
...but if the message is "Don't die in a stampede down the stairs after the shaking stops," I'm 100% OK with that!

Take your time and walk down. The fires from the broken gas lines probably won't start for a while.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 13, 2014 at 9:20 AM · Report this
fletc3her 4
The biggest mistake I made when the "big one" hit Seattle a few years back was leaving the building. I couldn't get back in for more than an hour and it was a long walk down a back staircase.

I will say that being on the 15th floor, near the top of a building in Bellevue, was a bit scary. Looking out the window I had the distinct impression the building was leaning quite far and I was entertaining the notion it was going to fall right over. Genuine vertigo I imagine.
Posted by fletc3her on January 13, 2014 at 9:41 AM · Report this
"Your body will order you to run; but the truly rational thing to do is to disobey the body and stay where you are."

Hark, what artful and eloquent manner of writing. Truly for it I am more whole. Not presumptuous of how I would feel during an earthquake, inscribing its own conjured emotional state and thus becoming much less effective for the payoff of being able to write like a twat.
Posted by more-instagram-filters-please on January 13, 2014 at 9:51 AM · Report this
venomlash 6
Not to mention, if you're at the top of a building you don't have to worry about debris falling from above.
Posted by venomlash on January 13, 2014 at 9:57 AM · Report this
Allyn 7
Drop cover and hold. Never run. Avoid staircases (because really, how far do you want to tumble down inside a shaking rainstick?)

When the shaking starts, dive under a desk and hold onto its legs.

Does no one else read the kid's website?
Posted by Allyn on January 13, 2014 at 10:10 AM · Report this
south downtown 8
Cascadia’s Fault by Jerry Thompson. Counterpoint Press, 2011.

"After 50 cycles of harmonic vibration—skyscrapers swaying rhythmically from side to side in giddy wobbles—dozens of tall buildings have shed most of their glass. In some downtown intersections the cascade of broken shards has piled up three feet deep.

Shock waves have been pummeling the Pacific Northwest for four minutes and thirty-five seconds now, and it still isn’t over. After 64 cycles, enough welds have cracked, enough concrete has spalled, enough shear walls have come unstuck that some towers begin to pancake. The same death spiral everyone saw in New York on 9/11 happens all over again. Smaller buildings, but more of them. Dozens of towers go down in the four northernmost of the affected cities."
Posted by south downtown on January 13, 2014 at 10:15 AM · Report this
Fnarf 9
Modern tall buildings sway constantly in the wind and thus have tuned mass dampers -- a big weight that sways or rolls on bearings or springs counter to the motion of the building -- in order to ease the amount of swaying (which can cause motion sickness on the top floors) and protect the frame from cracking. The system works in earthquakes too.

Here's video of the 728-ton ball hanging at the 90th floor level of the 101-story Taipei 101 building:…
Posted by Fnarf on January 13, 2014 at 10:57 AM · Report this
Fnarf 10
PS: Charles, can you please fix your white balance? You have it set to "incandescent", it should be "auto".
Posted by Fnarf on January 13, 2014 at 11:09 AM · Report this
care bear 11
Well, I like the photo.
Posted by care bear on January 13, 2014 at 11:34 AM · Report this
ScandalMgr 12
On 3/11, I was on the 5th floor of a new building in Tokyo and my intuition was to get outside on the deck (roof of the 4th floor), where I was able to watch the building across the street deflect at least 3 feet and the car parked on its roof pendulum like a metronome. On the way out, concrete and drywall dust was evident in the stairwells. That was just the beginning...

Then, there were all the helpful Public Address announcements in Japanese, which were no help to me.

The radioactive superpower I gained seems to be the ability to transform a growler of beer into a bottle of air (that could sustain someone for maybe 90 seconds?).
Posted by ScandalMgr on January 13, 2014 at 11:56 AM · Report this
very bad homo 13
I think it's a lovely picture too.
Posted by very bad homo on January 13, 2014 at 12:23 PM · Report this
If you have a choice (!) of where to be during an earthquake, choose a small stucco.

My 50 year old cracker box stucco apartment building weathered the ginormous 1990s Northridge Los Angeles quakes with one small crack on the side, and a small corner of the porch fell off.

that's it. See, stucco cracks.

Meanwhile, brick buildings fell like legos, the skyscraper supposedly earth quake safe hotel next door had second floor windows with water pouring out of 'em, and took six months to bring up to code.

Other more modern buildings pancaked, they repaired the crack on the side of mine, and the small corner of the porch and it's since weathered more after shocks.
Posted by judybrowni on January 13, 2014 at 12:53 PM · Report this
@9: that's awesome.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on January 13, 2014 at 1:10 PM · Report this
DeaconBlues 16
I read in Davis' Ecology of Fear that, at least in LA, most earthquake-proofing in skyscrapers is really just wishful thinking and that any serious earthquake will probably level most of downtown LA.

aaaand isn't a large part of Seattle's downtown in the liquefaction zone? seems like that would change things.
Posted by DeaconBlues on January 13, 2014 at 1:27 PM · Report this
-B- 17
Hmmm more blue photos of buildings.

I was skimming the SLOG and I quickly misread your post title as

"What to Do If You're In a Skyscraper With Big Tits"

Which would have made a far better post.
Does the Skyscraper have Big Tit's or do I have em or someone close by me.

On another note: the building you show looks like the Shangri-La in Vancouver. I was attending a fashion show in a covered area outside this building and part of the building fell off and crashed through the safety glass overhang we were sitting under. So this poorly built building probably would loose some of its cladding in an earthquake so I wouldn't want to be near it on the street.
Posted by -B- on January 13, 2014 at 3:37 PM · Report this
i'm pro-science and i vote 18
I'd probably scurry down out of the building. Mraaaaw!! I mean, I've just heard that when the 'big one' hits here it'll be around 9.5 on the richter scale and that sounds like a tough enough quake to topple some shit
Posted by i'm pro-science and i vote on January 20, 2014 at 9:42 PM · Report this

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