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  1. #1
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    Default A fact or a myth for fire rescue personnel?

    I'm not a firefighter but in the firesafety. I know emergency egress is still a thorny issue for people with disabilities as the stairway is the only way to get out of a multi-floor building in the absence of egress lifts.

    Any objections from firefighters and rescue personnels to this:

    "Some designers in tall buildings have adopted the multiple escape chute system to design an accessible means of escape into the egress structure in buildings, which enabled evacuation access to everyone including the disabled to get down and out if the egress lifts are not working in the event of eventual evacuation. The ability for the disabled people to self-evacuate via fire escape chute, gives them the best chance to "get out alive" before the fire conditions deteriorate. Such emergency exit system would not only save the lives of people with disabilities but also of rescue workers who would not have to put themselves at risk to do a search and rescue if the fire conditions become uncontrollable."

    Is this be a fact or a myth?


  2. #2
    Forum Member DaSharkie's Avatar
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    I have seen a lot of news stories on these things and they seem to wrk pretty slick. The friction of the material doesn't allow you to go all that fast so you don't have to worry about breaking you legs when you get to the bottom. There are some jurisdictions out there that have these systems in some of the "smaller" high rises. I haven't heard of a fire in any building with them though. I have no idea how high up you can go before they become ineffective though.

    On another note, in this months Popular Mechanics there is an article about a parachute system for high rises that some guy thinks there will be a business for. They are designed for someone who has never used a parachute before. Not a bad theory and I think I would take my chances with a parachute than a hgih rise fire after seeing the WTC and some of the other high rise fires out there.
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    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    Hmm. I like the sounds of this escape chute thing. Hell, I'd use it all the time. Where I work, the elevators are god awful slow. This might makes the trip down faster and more fun. Oh yea, if the building is on fire, that would be helpful too....
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Disillusioned Subscriber Steamer's Avatar
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    They better figure out a way to clear out the LZ for this thing. When somebody that's disabled can't get out of the way and gets whacked by 4 or 5 of the people behind them, they aren't gonna be much more than cushion for the rest of the people on the way down.
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    From what I know is that such escape chute were developed as a alternative means of emergency egress to staircases and egress elevators. These chutes are already used in buildings and also by fire depts in many countries.

    In a fire situation, firefighters have to use the stairs to gain access to fire floors while building occupants have to use the same stairs to get down, hence, slow down the evacuation and rescue process. In addition, the disabled have no ability to get down by stairs on their own. Normal elevators are not recommendable for fire evacuation, except the evacuation elevators. It seems that such escape chute is a solution, and it can be used by all. I understand that it have got many versons/model, from low rise to high rise!

    I think in a life threatening situation, people want to get out quick and alive. It doesnt matter if they get some minor injuries, scratches when they walk or crawl out of the chute alive. There must have some SOP or safety features of using the chute to minimise accidents, etc. In addition, no one can guarrantee that people getting down the stairs or elevators is free from injury during fire evacuation.

    As using the parachute as a means of escape from high rise, 1 parachute can be used by 1 person, and not for all the buiding occupants, while 1 line of escape chute can used by many people include the disabled.
    Last edited by escapeconsult; 08-07-2003 at 09:27 PM.

  6. #6
    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    Default Re: A fact or a myth for fire rescue personnel?

    Originally posted by escapeconsult
    Such emergency exit system would not only save the lives of people with disabilities but also of rescue workers who would not have to put themselves at risk to do a search and rescue if the fire conditions become uncontrollable.
    Chute or no chute... We'll still be going in to conduct a search for victims when conditions allow for it. And chute or no chute... we won't risk our personnel when conditions don't allow for it. In this regard, the chute is not a factor.

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    I know of one Fire Dept that had one on one of their Truck Companies. Theoretically it would be placed up to a window using the stick and people would escape that way. However they got a new rig that wouldn't work with the chute...so no more chute.

    FTM-PTB

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    Chute or no chute... We'll still be going in to conduct a search for victims when conditions allow for it. And chute or no chute... we won't risk our personnel when conditions don't allow for it. In this regard, the chute is not a factor.
    What about allowing the building occupants to get out quick before the conditions deterioriate? It is unwise for the people having to wait till the conditons allow for the firefighters to conduct a search for victims. In this regard, gives them the best chance to "get out alive" before the fire conditions deteriorate is a factor.

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    I know of one Fire Dept that had one on one of their Truck Companies. Theoretically it would be placed up to a window using the stick and people would escape that way. However they got a new rig that wouldn't work with the chute...so no more chute.
    There are several makes/types of escape chute in the market. I have seen a "3 layers type of chute" with platform that is mounted on the bucket of aerial ladder platform or the skylift platform, to reach the edge of window, balcony and rooftop.

    The quick deployment of this mobile rescue unit and its flexibility of extending or shortening the chute length to the desired height for the rescue allow the rescuers the speed to quickly provide victims a safer means of rapid vertical escape from bucket to ground. It eliminates the time involved in lowering and raising the aerial platform, and reduces the speed of mass rescuing victims from tall building by almost ten times in comparison to using the conventional method.

  10. #10
    Early Adopter cozmosis's Avatar
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    Originally posted by escapeconsult
    What about allowing the building occupants to get out quick before the conditions deterioriate? It is unwise for the people having to wait till the conditons allow for the firefighters to conduct a search for victims. In this regard, gives them the best chance to "get out alive" before the fire conditions deteriorate is a factor.
    Sure, I support any product that allows occupants to escape prior to our arrival or prior to our need to rescue them. However, when we arrive on scene, we will still conduct a search for victims where conditions allow. Just because an emergency egress system is in place doesn't mean that everyone was able to use it.

  11. #11
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    Jump..?

  12. #12
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    However, when we arrive on scene, we will still conduct a search for victims where conditions allow. Just because an emergency egress system is in place doesn't mean that everyone was able to use it.
    The principle objective of a rescue and fire-fighting service is to save lives, hence, it is imperative for FF to conduct a search for victims where conditions allow.

    For this reason the provision of means of dealing with such incidents must assume at all times the possibility of, and need for, height rescue and extinguishing a fire at any time during rescue operations.In such a scenario, an emergency egress system would enable more people to "get out alive" before the fire conditions deteriorate. Yet, there could be a few less fortunate people that need assistance or may not be able to use it.

    I think in a life threatening situation, given a chance, people would make every attempt to jump into a chute or a parachute to get out alive.

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    Default Escape Chute

    Oops, I originally posted this in the wrong place, but here it is now.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------


    Escape Chute
    I am personally skeptical of these devices, in an office building. I am responsible for fire safety in a large office complex, and I could see several difficulties.

    --Almost all office buildings have sealed windows, so the windows would have to be smashed out to allow the escapeslide to be used, showering glass on the neighbourhood
    --There has to be someone on the floor who is adequately trained and has sufficient practice to use the slide: ensuring it is properly anchored and laid out without twists or kinks. How would you give staff sufficient practice on this, smash out the windows during your annual fire drill?
    --You have to have someplace to store it when not in use, eventually it is put away and forgotten. Some tenants bought the "stairchair" after the WTC disaster, but after awhile they could stuffed into the back storage room, where no one will find them during an emergency.
    --There is a height limit to the slides, they don't make them for the upper floors of a highrise.
    --If you are trapped above the fire, such as at WTC, the slide will have to pass by the flames and hot gases from the fire floor, which would likely melt it
    --In the vast majority of situations it is possible to walk down the stairs and out of the building, or defend in place while the fire is extinguished.
    --There is also the issue of liability, would the landlord be held responsible if the slide didn't work, or if someone got hurt.

    The escape parachute is one of the most ridiculous things I've seen, I saw it at a seminar I attended, the brochures pointed out it had never actually been tested or used from a building, and made no guarantees about it's effectiveness, all for several hundred dollars. Most tall office buildings in North America are in the 400 to 700 foot range, so the chute has to deploy pretty fast to arrest your fall, and you have to hope you don't get slammed against the side of the building.

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    Following the WTC incidents, it has become evident that even though tall buildings are designed for the Ďdefend in placeí strategy, people must still be able to evacuate quickly in case of extreme emergency.

    The standard option of evacuating the building quickly may not be available if the normal means of egress, such as elevators, are not working and one or more stairways are impassable because of smoke, heat or flames. How to get those building occupants with some degree of disadvantage regarding the use of stairs to get down to the ground quickly in the absence of elevators? In addition, firefighters will need to walk up the same stairways for fire suppression operations and rescue, thereby slowing the downward flow of evacuation process.

    Many fire services deemed that it is the responsibility of the fire safety manager (FSM) of the building management to ensure safe evacuation of all occupants within his high rise non-residential buildings, prior to the arrival of the fire brigade. The FSM has to incorporate into his fire emergency plan procedures to take proper care and bring any persons with physical disabilities if they exist within his buildings down to ground level quickly and safely, if a full-scale evacuation is required.

    A number of unique vertical escape devices have been developed for helping people with disabilities evacuate high rise buildings if, the elevator is not available and stairs not an option. Among of these devices include stairway chairs and escape chutes of different variations, are the available solutions at this point of time that I've knowledge of. Although current fire regulations do not require buildings to provide egress facilities to aid evacuation or rescue purposes, building owners in many countries have provided these hardware solutions to meet their evacuation requirement.

    One possible reason why chutes are not commonly installed in buildings suggests the lack of knowledge of professionals about using such systems as a means of quick egress alternative to the staircases. Further, there are currently no standards for the design and construction of escape chutes or similar devices, nor mandatory requirement for placing them in structures for aiding rescue or evacuation purposes.

    For example, escape chute varies in price and safety features, materials and systems, and few have been tested by the fire academy. Some chutes are made of different layers of fire resistant fabrics, while others are from fire retardant fabric, or of heavy-duty nylon tubular net. For chute construction of fire fire resistant fabrics, it can withstand temperature to certain degree, allow time for as many people to slide through before it become deformed There are vertical gravity descend type, spiral descend type, and sloping-sliding descend type. Most systems are of free fall type with no or little possibilities of self-controlling descend speed or aids to control speed of oneís descend. There is one system that uses braking coat spuncell in allowing users to self-control his/her own speed of descend and it also allow assistance from the ground to control the userís speed of descend.

    In all high rise rescue and evacuation, there is always some factors of risk involved. Most chute manufacturers have incorporated safety features and SOP in minimising the risks when using such chute during emergencies. On the issue of liability, would the landlord be held responsible if the fire protection system failed to control the spread of fire, or for those who are waiting at defend in place but no one came to get them, or for those trapped in upper floors with no alternative means of escape, or if someone got hurt while getting down the stairs. Frequent practice in drills will ensure that building occupants use the escape chute system safely during emergency evacuations.

    Most chute installations are of permanently fixed in one location served as emergency exits. There is single-entry type mounted on the rooftop, balcony of corridor, and window, allows occupants gain access to the chute on that floor. If properly designed and installed inside the building, it is not necessary to smash out the windows to allow the escapeslide to be used. The multi-entry type, has no height constraints, allows occupants gain access to the chute at each floor where several levels can be simultaneously evacuated. The portable type used by the fire brigades for height rescue operations. Escape chute are also used for industrial applications: in vessel, ferries, offshore platforms,, silos, etc for quick emergency egress.

    Fortunately, rare occurrence of major hazards in high rise buildings means that more often than not, the real-life experience of evacuating people with disabilities under urgent circumstances is not tasted. But when they do occur, the prompt evacuation of these people may be totally reliant upon the effectiveness of the building design, the level of preparedness in building emergency response planning and evacuation procedures. The availability of stairway chairs and escape chutes in such situations will mean more people could get out of the structure in the shortest posssible time or more lives could be saved!

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    I've read reports on the recent major power outage incidents. The fire department ran calls concerning more than fires and elevator rescues. They were called in to assist in getting senior citizens out of a 13-story high-rise apartment building during the blackout. If the stairway chairs and escape chute were available in that building, I believed it would make the job much easier for the rescuers!

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    Default Escape Slide

    To have the escape slide in a fixed location, such as a central shaft, would likely require it to be incorporated in the original design of the building, but for existing buildings this would not be possible, so type of comprimise would have to be developed. If one slide in a central shaft serves multiple floors, how do you prevent people from being hit, if they enter the slide as someone from the upper floor is coming down?
    How does a landlord find space for such a device? The only option that I can see, in an existing building, would be out the window and down the side of the building. Assuming you have multiple floors, you would have to have slides for each floor, and position them so that one floors slide doesn't interfere with others. This also would mean the slide would have to be stowed somewhere when not in use. This would also mean, tenants on each floor would have to be capable of deploying the slide.
    Passenger planes have emergency slides, in case of an accident, and in many incidents people have suffered a variety of injuries while using the slide to evacuate. Airlines and manufactuers have to test the slides for the FAA, using volunteers, before new types of aircraft are put into service. Injuries, sometimes quite serious, have occurred during the tests. How would a landlord justify the injuries during annual fire drills, when people are using the slides for a practice? If tenants view drills as dangerous, they will not participate, and then they will be unprepared when they do have to evacuate. Most landlords will agree, these days you will be sued, no matter what you do.
    Other than the WTC disaster, I cannot think of another recent incident, where all stairs were blocked off. At WTC, 99% of the tenants who had a chance to escape did escape, via the stairs, the tenants who died were above the area of impact and could not escape since all stairs were destroyed. If a slide had been in a central shaft, it likely would have been destroyed, like the stairs and the elevators, when the plane sliced through the building. I have seen film clips of these slides in Japan, for use during an earthquake, but there must be some sort of maximum height limit? I'd be curious to know if there are any slides in use in any North American buildings?
    In Ontario, there is a requirement for highrise buildings to have backup generators, which will provide power to a firefighters elevator. In the buildings I am responsible for, once we became aware of the extent of the blackout, tenants were instructed, via the PA system (which is also on emergency power), to leave the building via the stairs. Persons with disabilities were picked up by security staff in a firefighters elevator. Some buildings were not so fortunate, due to generator problems, or generators running out of fuel. During a fire emergency, tenants evacuate via the stairs, and tenants with disabilities wait on the stair landings, protected by a stairwell pressurization system. All procedures are laid out in the buildings Fire Safety Plan, which is approved by the local Fire Service.

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    How would a landlord justify the injuries during annual fire drills, when people are using the slides for a practice? If tenants view drills as dangerous, they will not participate, and then they will be unprepared when they do have to evacuate.
    I wish I could show you video clips or show you some photos of what I am talking about or let you know which website that you can get more information on, but I'm not sure if can do that in this forum.

    Perhaps, would someone be interested to do a research topic on:
    "evacuation of persons with physical and sensory disabilities from public buildings"

    Given that emergency egress is still a thorny issue for people with disabilities as the stairway is the only way to get out of a multi-floor building in the absence of egress lifts, I think this is a very interesting topic and the findings would be very useful and helpful for the design of building fire precautions.

    Among the ethical questions that need to address when faced with high rise emergencies involving people with disabilities: Is it justifiable for someone with a disability who need to be assisted to use the stairs, thus slowing the evacuation of dozens or even hundreds of other people? Or should he or she wait to be the last one to get out? If he or she to wait, who is he or she waiting for? And who is going to be back for him or her after everyone else gets out? Is it justifiable for rescue workers who would have to put themselves at risk of injury to rescue disabled people because there are no means of emergency egress for the disadvantaged to get to ground level unassisted or with minimum assistance?

    The result of such research topic would in many ways provide some answers to the following questions:

    Is it legal by Human Rights legislation or the Disability Discrimination Act (or by some other act) to just leave the poor unfortunate less abled people at the refuge in a blazing building waiting for someone to come to get them out?
    Are the current means or modes of evacuation in multistory buildings for the elderly, mobility impaired and wheelchair users adequate?
    What is the considered best practise for the evacuation of the physically less abled persons and wheelchair users from a low rise and from a high rise building?
    Are the building management (or even colleagues) prepared and equipped of evacuating them in an emergency evacuation?
    In the search for suitable measures to meet the emergency egress needs for all, especially for persons with disabilities, what are the hardware solutions that have been developed for emergency egress facilities for helping these people evacuate high rise buildings if, the lifts is not available and stairs not an option?
    On a serious note has any operational firefighters coming to a fire or false alarm actually come across an unevacuated disabled person in an non-residential building? (Actually even info on residential buildings would be useful).

  18. #18
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Might just be me, but if I was wheelchair bound, I wouldn't live on upper floors. Not because of emergencies, but just because of everyday inconveniences.

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    My biggest concern with any chute type device would be what happens when it gets blocked? Everybody knows someone who is a clutz and would somehow manage to get caught up in the chute, or if a too small/big person attempted to use it and had problems. In such a case there would be no way to exit the device if you were above the blockage. Point in case, the previously mentioned case where a disabled person reaches the bottom and gets hit by the next 5 people coming down from above. If you're #3 in the jam up and there are another 100 people waiting to come down you are in big trouble. With stairs a person blocking the way can be moved to the side or onto the next landing.

    Space would also be an issue, as metioned before, it would occupy a large volume of building space, plus it would be a natural chimney with no fire stops built into it.

    I'm not dissing the device, but until these concerns are addressed it would be a tough sell.
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    It is unwise for wheelchair bound to live in upperfloor but even an able-bodied person may become situational disability in a high rise emergency evacuation and may need assistance to get down the stairs.

    Depending on what system of chute that you are referring to, for some type that I know of, if one gets unconcious inside the chute, which could happen and it may get blocked and the above person may get caught in between. It would takes time to push the "obstacle" down.

    The system that I'm referring to has got a standard opening size of 530mm, but the hole can be bigger for some industrial application. Therefore, a person with a body waist of above 530mm cannot gain access to the chute opening. This system works on the principle of "stress and friction" vertical descend, i.e. what goes in will gradually and eventually arrive to the ground. Using this "stress and friction" principle, the concious people can control his/her own speed of descend by bending the knees and elbows against the chute. There are ways to prevent collison and hard landing to the ground. For safety reason, it is recommendable to have at least a helper at the ground to guide those get out quickly from the chute. Even an unconcious people could get down through this chute.

    Using a simple illustation of a structure, say about 67m tall. The average speed of descend is about 2.5m/sec for this system. It would take between 25 - 30 secs for one evacuee to slide down to the ground from that height. For safety reason, the waiting time for the next individual to enter the chute is about 5-6 secs. In another word you can have about 5 persons sliding down the chute at any one time. Therefore, it may take a maximum of 150 secs (2.5mins) to get 20 people down to the ground from that level using one chute.

    I want to reiterate that this chute is not a replacement of exit stairs but is an additional safety feature to speed up the emergency egress process when the elevator is not working. It is also a means for the disabled to self-escape from the multi-floor. Therefore, in an emergency evacuation, building occupants should not rely on chute alone but also the exit stairs. This system is already in used to enhance emergency preparedness in buildings though is not required by code yet.

    It does not take a big space for such installation. It may take a floor space of 1.2m x 1.2m depending on which type you are referring to.

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