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Concluding to “Jump” for Emergency Building Evacuation
Posted on December 27th, 2017 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & Applications
With urban buildings going higher and constrained footprints straining emergency egress, one company eyes a novel approach through windows rather than doors.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 80.7% of the U.S. population lives in urban areas representing only 3% of the nation’s land area. The building opportunity in cities is higher, not wider thus creating a challenge for safe evacuation of occupants during emergencies such as fire, natural disasters, or acts of terrorism. Limited footprints and the need for structural integrity to support a greater number of floors also constrains the amount of space available to stairwells and elevator shafts. Even on buildings supporting external fire escapes, the ladders can create a choke point as people congest in narrow passageways.
The key to innovation is thinking functionally to broaden your perspective. Instead of focusing on the size or speed of the exit doors, the engineers and researchers at the New York based SkySaver company have apparently found opportunity in changing the constraints by turning to a building’s windows to create more exits. The function of egress can then be decoupled from the size of the exitways and the congestion they create.
Enter the SkySaver self rescue device. A backpack featuring a controlled descent device (CDD) engineered to safely lower a human at a speed of 3-6 feet per second via a cable. Attached structurally to a hook either inside or outside a building’s window, the wearer of a SkySaver backpack can safely rappel down the side of a building similar to how climbers rappel down a mountain. Unlike a climber, the CCD as shown in the figure below is designed to be self contained with a mechanical braking system requiring no user intervention or special skills.
Specifications aside, what’s it like in that moment of truth stepping off a window ledge with only a steel cable at your back? The company claims years of rigorous testing which you can see in the following YouTube video:
As the old adage goes, “They’re not making any more real estate”, so the population density of people in cities is constantly increasing. While the total number of fires is on a downward trend with a decrease of 23% as reported by the National Fire Protection Association, structural fires still represent the majority of those fire at 74% and result in one civilian death every 2 hours and 35 minutes. When the need arose, I’d be more inclined to bet on science and a cable than chance and a stairway.
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All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.
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