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Student-designed door could save lives during earthquakes

By

September 28, 2010

Younghwa Lee's door provides shelter in the event of an earthquake

Younghwa Lee's door provides shelter in the event of an earthquake

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What are you supposed to do when an earthquake hits? If you answered “Go stand in a doorway,” you get a gold star... although "Get under a table" would also be correct. Doorways are structurally stronger than most other parts of a building, and are often the last thing left standing when a structure has been destroyed by an earthquake. A narrow doorway offers little, however, in the way of protection from falling debris. That’s why an MA Design student from England’s Kingston University has invented a special kind of door.

With news of the catastrophic Haiti earthquake as her motivation, Kingston’s Younghwa Lee wanted to design something that would allow more people to survive future earthquakes. What she came up with is a door that can pivot horizontally within its frame, so people can take shelter underneath it.

The door also folds horizontally in the middle, so the bottom part of it remains braced against the floor for added support. Because the door will be sitting at an angle when it’s in “earthquake mode,” debris will slide off of it instead of collecting on top.

Kingston University MA Design student Younghwa Lee

A small cabinet built into the door frame contains a wind-up flashlight, containers of drinking water, and medical supplies. There should be room for two people under each door.

Younghwa designed her door with the city of Istanbul in mind, as the U.S. Geological Survey has estimated there is a 70 per cent chance the city will be hit by an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale before 2030, possibly resulting in up to 150,000 fatalities. She thinks her doors could be inexpensively installed in many of the homes in that city.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
7 Comments

Yeah.... it has merit.

But is it field tested?

Cause I am thinking, "OK the writer is saying that many times in an earthquake - the last thing standing is the door frame..... but many times when that is the case, there is going to be a lot more coming down than just a few foam ceiling tiles.

Like has she dropped say 200Kg of loose bricks down onto it from 2 stories high?

Mr Stiffy
28th September, 2010 @ 06:05 pm PDT

Seems like yet another "design student" product, considering that sheltering in a doorway is intended to make people most likely to survive if the ENTIRE ROOF collapses rather than non existant small debris which can't fall off the roof.

The idea of tons of structural elements of a house just sliding off a foam cored internal door cantelievered out a meter over a person who can no longer shelter in the actual door frame would be laughable if it wasn't so likely to increase fatalities in an earthquake.

Drew__1
28th September, 2010 @ 07:57 pm PDT

it's the frame that provides the safety. The first heavy thing that comes down onto that contraption is just going to make you into a thin sandwich.

Adrien
28th September, 2010 @ 08:46 pm PDT

increase the amount of people that will die in earthquake

Al Al
29th September, 2010 @ 06:58 am PDT

I've read the report of a search and survivor rescue person who has firsthand experience at several earthquake sites. He said that seeking shelter under a desk or a table will not save your life if the building collapses during an earthquake. Standing in a strong doorway can increase your chances of survival, but you won't be comfortable. The students who took shelter under desks and tables when the building collapsed on top of them died from being crushed by the weight of debris that those desks and tables could not support. The students that stayed in the isle between the desks had a better survival rate. The students that sought protection from strong doorways near reinforced stairwells had the best survival rate and most were able to exit the building on their own power. For home use, this might save your bacon. For any other application, it would have to be the doorway to a reinforced stairwell. I do like the idea of a flashlight and water being stored in the door frame though.

Gene Jordan
29th September, 2010 @ 07:56 am PDT

As someone who has just been through a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand, I think having something in your home to help protect you from flying debris is better than nothing at all - the point is that the doorway is probably the safest place in a house but is very narrow. We had heavy items fall off a cupboard which struck my husband's foot and a large mirror which was leaning on the wall by the doorway smashed there - these things would have been deflected by this door and we would have at least felt a little bit more protected - it might have been a slightly less scary experience if we thought we had a bit of protection but instead we cowered under a duvet knowing it wouldn't help us. Debris doesn't just come from above - things fall sideways.

Agree that if the roof collapsed you might be in trouble but if the ceiling fell down this could avoid injuries and I'd rather have this than nothing at all for protection.

tanya
29th September, 2010 @ 01:05 pm PDT

An earthquake rescue professional wrote that your best survival is in a triangle area of support, meaning stand or sit near a strong support item, not underneath. Draw an imaginary triangle vertically around a fridge. The safest area is within the triangle at the sides. This is where he found the most survivors.

Bart Bernard
27th April, 2012 @ 07:49 pm PDT
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