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DEPLOYABLE FIRE ESCAPES for TOWERING BUILDINGS Answered

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The “9/11” World Trade Center disaster horrified Americans as they witnessed people leaping out of 100 story windows to their death. There was simply no available escape system to facilitate a safe yet quick evacuation to the ground floor. Elevators weren’t working and internal staircases were blocked by sporadic debris, black smoke and fires. The situation was virtually hopeless to the point where many chose to jump rather than be burned alive. So here we are, with technology capable of constructing 100+ story buildings but without the means for external fire-escapes. Unfortunately, the public isn’t aware that at our current level of technology we can finally address this problem with our architects.

We are talking about a means to rapidly deploy a flexible escape tube-chute from 100+ stories that hangs along a guy-wire which is pre-attached to our escape floor and anchored to the ground (Fig-1). This tube-chute escape system will deliver a person from 100-stories down to ground level and safely outside the building in under 10-minutes.

Prior to deployment, the entire system is housed inside a container that is either attached to the outside of the building or built into a structured wall, opening to the outside at various floor levels. When in deployment, the inlet of the flexible escape tube will be anchored to the outside wall of a designated escape window and contain an inner diameter sufficiently sized to accommodate an individual. The tube’s exit end is tethered to a rope-wire that runs down our permanently located guy-wire, through a series of guy-wire slip-rings, and quickly pulls the tube's exit end to ground. The rope-wire is permanently attached to a winch-motor located on the ground. During deployment, the winch pulls the tube’s rope-wire down to ground level by slipping along the guy-wire rings. As the tube-chute deploys downward, it automatically forms a spiral about the guy-wire, creating a very long escape slide that gets anchored to the ground.

A fully deployed tube-chute exhibits three basic attachments for stability: 1) a set of flexible slip-rings and tethers attached between the permanent guy-wire and tube to form its downward spiral, 2) a tube-chute inlet anchored to the outside of the building at various floor levels, and 3) a tube-chute exit anchored to the ground and providing a fully deployed and reliable escape system ready for use.

As each person enters the tube-chute, they are only aware of the outside winds which buffet the tube plus the internally hanging cloth fingers used to slow their descent as they slide down to safety. They are not aware of any height and feel relatively secure due to their complete envelopment by both the tube and its touching fingers.  A 100-story descent would take about 6-to-10-minutes to reach the outside safety of ground while travelling at a speed of roughly 5-fps (3.5 MPH) as regulated by the spiral-ramp and internal cloth-fingers retarding gravity.  

Technical  Details:

The tube-chute is reinforced by a sewn-in spiral wire that gives it strength and flexibility. Its tube is made of heavy duty nylon, much like the large yet light air-hoses used on many high stress applications today. The tube cork-screws its way down and around a permanently deployed guy-wire that stretches from the designated floor of the building to the ground. The tube is sized for a person to enter and slide down the spiraling pathway until he reaches ground level. Gravity will act to propel the sliding individual down the tube. To counter gravity, we rely on the tube’s spiraling design to produce a gradually declining ramp that slows and checks an individual’s descent speed. The number of spirals and ramp-angle necessary to reach the ground will be sized to limit the gravity-induced speed so as not to endanger an individual’s sliding descent. That and the internally hanging cloth fingers guard against excessive speeds and will prevent skin-burns from the sliding friction.

The tube’s nylon material is impregnated with anti-flammable chemistry and its exterior is aluminized to prevent radiative heatloads from causing a fire due to either direct flames or the radiant heat from indirect flames.

A final note on the overall weight for this flexible tube-chute structure. Clearly, since we are designing a deployable fire-escape system, its weight must be kept to a minimum for deployment safety and reliability. Items such as the cloth materials, tube-wire reinforcements, and spiraling tube tether attachments must be carefully chosen for weight, strength and durability. While issues of weathering may not be that important, as it will be housed and protected from the elements, the shelf life of the various materials chosen is of paramount importance.

20 Replies

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thematthatter (author)2012-08-03

are you going to have one on every floor?

In korea the tall buildings have climbing ropes/harness anchored to the walls of the building by each window. There is also a protective mask next to it. In the event of a fire you put on the protective mask to your head, tie yourself to the rope and climb out the building.

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RT-101 (author)thematthatter2012-08-17

Can't do that, there would be too many wire-cables attached to the ground. Figure every 15 or so floors.

Ropes are a cleaner system, no wire-cables to ground needed. But I'd rather slide down inside an enclosure than hang from a rope deployed very close to a burning building. A rope at each window doesn't provide enough escape systems for population density per floor! It's like the Titanic which only had enough lifeboats for their first class passengers!

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ilpug (author)2012-07-12

Seems like that if this got shoved out the side of any tall building it would become a sail and flap horribly.

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RT-101 (author)ilpug2012-08-01

Yes it would flap badly unless designed properly!
As all sailboats are properly rigged/designed to eliminate or dramatically attenuate flapping or sail flutter, so shall this tube-sail, using stiff but light fiberglass tether rods solidly anchored along the tube and attached to the guy-wire with slip-rings.
I can't detail the entire design in just a few paragraphs. It would bore must folks, so this forum allows me to just throw out the basic concept and solicit further thoughts. Thanks for your feedback!

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ilpug (author)RT-1012012-08-05

Well, it seems like you could engineer it to have wing-like characteristics.... some how.

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lemonie (author)2012-07-12

This is not a good idea.
No one should be planning drastic things like this; please put your thoughts into avoiding situations where people feel like jumping to their deaths.
Also, this idea will either "take the skin off" skinny-people until they go "splat", or get clogged-up by fat people before it breaks and they fall to their deaths anyway.

L

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RT-101 (author)lemonie2012-08-01

I understand your feelings about "people ... jumping to their deaths" and having to even think about that is repulsive to me as well. Since it scared me, I wanted it not to happen again, so that's why I tried to come up with a way to save them. Maybe this idea isn't that good, but at least I'm trying and hopefully keep making it better.

I've also been thinking about keeping the skin on people as they slide down the tube. I remember my kids sliding down slides and worrying about their safety. I wouldn't let them slide down too steep a slide because they slid too fast. So I realized my escape slide had to be shallow and not steep. That's why it spirals many times before getting to the bottom and hoprefully not "splatting" anyone. Those many hanging cloth-fingers are there to also help slow someone down, like I used to do with my kids by holding on to them as the slid down.

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lemonie (author)RT-1012012-08-02

Yes, the way I would go is to do things that avoid these situations rather than try to deal with them.

But, how about some tubes in the stairwells / lift tower, in which one could inflate something like an airbag (same technology) and float down, with the drag being the balloon in the tube?
You could narrow the tubes at the bottom for extra braking, but you'd still have to devise a way to avoid people piling on top of one another (and with fire & panic, that would be hard). I can picture your original tubes as being like intestines, and in a similar way subject to "constipation".

L

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RT-101 (author)lemonie2012-08-03

I’m racing to keep up with your clever concepts. All are workable ideas. My initial thoughts were to avoid all unexpected internal obstacles while trying to escape, resulting in external focus. However, escape always needs more than one form of exit, and internal focus is just as important! Both are definitely needed.

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lemonie (author)RT-1012012-08-03

Outside carries risks of: wind, wetting by rain, things escaping through windows, swinging & swaying etc. Also, straight & vertical tubes are the shortest & therefore quickest.

L

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steveastrouk (author)2012-07-13

What's the difference between this, and the commercially available systems ?

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RT-101 (author)steveastrouk2012-08-01

I've looked at other systems and they use:
1) sky cranes located on top of buildings which require electric power from the building and any rooftop fires killing this idea, or
2) rails attached to outside building running outside levator down to ground - only helps limited number of passengers, rails susceptable to a local fire causing failure.

None use a deployable sliding approach.

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steveastrouk (author)RT-1012012-08-01

I've seen commercial systems, 25 years ago, that used the same method. They were featured on an old UK TV show called Tomorrows World

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RT-101 (author)steveastrouk2012-08-03

Wow! Social networking is beautiful.
MANY thanks for the info.
I searched Wikipedia and didn't find enough!
I guess I'll delve further.
Thanks again!

Interesting how exploratory concepts never die in the ethos. They just keep recycling amongst peoples collective unconscious till they're finally employed when technology becomes ready.  

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RT-101 (author)Kiteman2012-08-01

While sources and references are always important when you publish technical designs as I have in the past, with the advent of the Internet and resources like Wikipedia, etc., sources are becoming as ubiquitous as the air we breath. Anyway, Instructables and Forums don’t require credentials do they?

Anyone with an eager interest can look up most of these bits and pieces of collective hardware and verify their existence as separate entities. However, combining them to form a viable concept that addresses a specific need, now that's the challenge here.

I suppose I can say that the source of this concept originates from me. So someone in the near future would reference this as their "source" for a deployable fire-escape concept for tall buildings (my intent). I haven't seen this approach mentioned anywhere before. While ideas using fabrics for fire-escapes were once reviewed by the MIT School of Architecture, they were cumbersome and as large as the building itself and weren't feasible nor deployable.

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caitlinsdad (author)2012-07-13

You try walking through a car wash, getting beat up by cloth brushes for ten minutes. There is enough panic pushing through a doorway or getting to the lifeboats and in this case everyone trying to cram into a chute opening. These might work on planes and such but you'll have people jumping right in with sharp heels and personal effects. There will be a pileup at the exit end of the tube. Having the anchor deployment point at the top of the building assumes that the fire is not there or contained within the building. Heat and flames get hot enough to burn anything close to outside the building. What happens when smoke and heat penetrate the tube?

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RT-101 (author)caitlinsdad2012-08-01

Agreed about the car wash. Further thoughts needed here. I've been thinking about periodic thin tube restrictors that elastically contract and auto open as your feet then body start passing through it.

Also agreed about panicky folks causing a logjam. Would dfinitely need a supervisor to keep order and the timing of entry only every x-seconds.

When you watched the WTC fire, even though it started form the outside-in, any external flames died out quickly. And the smoke rose, so getting it into the enclosed tube shouldn't be an issue. But it does require looking into, thanks.

As long as any outside fire does not actually touch the tube material, it won't get affected because it gets coated with radiant heat reflective aluminum to keep it cool. Also the outside wind will keep the tube cool if any heat leaks in.

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Moem (author)2012-07-13

Wouldn't people get dizzy, and puke on the way?
Sure, arriving covered in vomit beats falling to your death... but still.

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RT-101 (author)Moem2012-08-01

Yes some will puke! Can't be helped, but overall diameter of spiral (not the tube itself) is large enough so you normally wouldn't feel the spiral as much as the downward movement. But only tests can answer these issues.

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