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Such victims actually accounted for 16% of the total number of deaths (6). Other anecdotal reports suggest the efficacy of moving to a protected area such as a doorway or under a desk. Clearly, the behavior of occupants during and immediately after an earthquake has been inadequately studied (87,88).
From the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, anecdotal reports of little islands of concrete slab perched on the tops of children's school desks while the rest of the ceiling had collapsed to the floor suggest that earthquake drills might be worthwhile (89). The real question, of course, is whether the children would have been able to get under the desks in time to prevent injury if the school had been occupied. In the best documented study of occupant behavior during earthquakes, the behavior of 118 employees of a county office building in Imperial County, California, was studied after a magnitude 6.5 earthquake damaged their building (90). Of interest here is the finding that 30% of the desks under which people in this building sought refuge moved away during the shaking, thus exposing the person to possible injury from falling objects. Following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, Durkin et al. examined the value of taking protective actions commonly suggested in citizen safety advisories (e.g., standing in a doorway or crawling under a desk) (31,79). They found that at least 60% of those injured during the period of shaking were engaged in some form of protective action at the time of their injury, but those injuries tended to be minor. Durkin's results suggest that while commonly recommended self-protective actions may enhance people's safety in total building collapse situations, people who rush to protect themselves in less hazardous settings may actually be increasing their risk of minor injury.