As young children, many of us were reminded to be thankful for health, food on the table, and a roof over our heads. It's all too easy to take these fundamental aspects of safety for granted until one of them is ripped away. Structural collapses can demolish that roof or the ground beneath our feet, often with little to no warning. However, as with other types of disaster, studying the past can help us prepare for the future. The following infographic from Forney Vault gives a quick overview of the location, death toll, and cause(s) of the 30 deadliest structural collapses in recorded history.

The oldest of these disasters occurred nearly 2,000 years ago, but four of them occurred within the last decade. They affected a variety of countries, and caused loss of life in both urban and rural areas. Some were triggered by natural disasters or terrorist attacks that weakened the structure, leading to a collapse that increased death toll exponentially. Others were simple failures of engineering that weren't noticed until it was too late.

So, what can we learn from these examples? Here are a few quick takeaways:

  • Be extremely cautious of large structures during (or immediately after) severe weather events. Heavy rainfall, flooding, and erosion played a part in many of these structural failures.
  • If you live near a large dam, study the potential flow path of its contents if the dam fails. Establish an escape plan, and take immediate action in the event of a major earthquake or storm.
  • Overcrowding due to sporting events, festivals, or even rush hour traffic can push structures to their breaking point. Try to avoid getting caught up in these crowds.
  • Make mental notes about escape routes of any large structure you enter. If a structural-failure-inducing event happens with no warning, such as an earthquake or explosion, these details can buy you precious seconds to escape before the building crumbles.

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