A School Desk That Can Save Lives During An Earthquake

This is part of a series highlighting notable entries in our Innovation By Design competition.–Ed.

In the ’50s, American students practiced taking cover under their desks to protect themselves against nuclear attack. That precaution, of course, would have been pointless under those circumstances, but it could save lives in the case of an earthquake. The Earthquake Proof Table, designed by Bezalel student Arthur Brutter and instructor Ido Bruno, is engineered to shield two students from a ton of debris.

The Israeli designers intend the desks to be used in schools built near geological fault lines or in developing countries, where buildings are often shoddily constructed. “At any given time, more than 300,000,000 pupils worldwide are facing impending danger since their schools are not built to withstand an earthquake,” Brutter and Bruno write in their project description. Although students are instructed to crawl under their desks in the event of an earthquake, ordinary furniture can collapse under the weight of a falling ceiling. Not the Earthquake Proof Table: With input from engineers and emergency workers, the designers designed a shelter durable enough to bend under intense weight loads while being light enough to be lifted and moved by two people.

Brutter and Bruno imagine teaching communities in the developing world how to manufacture the table locally and are currently in talks with various countries and agencies, including the United Nations, to figure out how enact their plan. They estimate that equipping a classroom with their tables costs a tenth of reinforcing a school’s walls and is more than 400 times cheaper than building a new facility that adheres to seismic building codes. The true bottom line: If installed in poor, earthquake-prone areas, these tables could save the lives of countless schoolchildren.BL