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A fact or a myth for fire rescue personnel?

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  • #16
    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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    • #17
      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).

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      • #18
        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.
        "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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        • #19
          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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          • #20
            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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            • #21
              This system is already in used to enhance emergency preparedness in buildings
              Where? It would be helpful to see it'a acutal use in a real building.
              "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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              • #22
                Ralph, apparently there is currently a building in the GTA that does utilize such a device.
                While attending a course at Seneca, our instructor was telling us about seeing one in the Toronto area. They were apparently even given a demonstration. Apparently there can be an issue with the speed of which a person descends the chute (need to make sure there is adequate clearance at the bottom from neighbouring buildings etc).
                I will email him and see if I can find out where it was and then shoot you a PM. This would not normally be an exceptable means of egress however if I remember correctly it was an "acceptable alternative" when no other feasible means existed.
                This would again have to be addressed through the Fire Safety Plan and approved by the local Chief Fire Official.
                My question would be, what type of maintenance would be required? If it's going to fail, then I would think that would be where. We have a hard enough time getting people to maintain sprinkler and fire alarm systems, never mind an egress chute. You would also need to protect them from vandalism.
                Last edited by LadyCapn; 08-28-2003, 04:36 PM.
                IACOJ

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                • #23
                  Where? It would be helpful to see it'a acutal use in a real building.
                  This particular system that I'm referring to was developed since 1982 and from my best knowledge they have chute installations worldwide: in many European countries and countries in Asia-Pacific region, and others. It is estimated that over a million people have tested the chute in fire drills and in demonstration. In addition, this system has also got a certification of conformity for the "escape chute" from a reputable Scientific Reseach Centre for Fire Protection in Europe.

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                  • #24
                    We have a hard enough time getting people to maintain sprinkler and fire alarm systems, never mind an egress chute.
                    Its my opinion that the "mindset" of the fire and building community that is got to change! Would the development of code and standards make it possible for future buildings to become even safer, conducive for access and egress to everone? The need to adopt a universal approach to equal egress design in building would give the disabled the same ability that able-bodied people have for vertical exits if elevator unavailable. Hence, the concept of "equal opportunity in evacuations" would make high rise evacuation quicker and relatively safer.

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                    • #25
                      My question would be, what type of maintenance would be required? If it's going to fail, then I would think that would be where. You would also need to protect them from vandalism.
                      This system needs a clearance of about 80cm from the ground to the exit point of the chute for easy and quick egress. There are methods for the helpers at ground to ensure that no one would land flatly to the ground.

                      From what I know: this system works on the principle of gravity, using the stress and friction method, and it needs no power supply to operate. Hence, little maintainece is required and is not complicated to maintain. As in all fire protection and extinguishing system and equipment, we need to have regular maintenance to ensure that it will work at all time and to protect them from vandalism, misuse, etc. This egress chute adopt the same principle too! In addition, the shelf-life of this system can exceed 10 years with regular mainteance when unused for actual mass fire evacuation. This system can be reused if the condition is still good after a major fire evacuation.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by escapeconsult
                        this system works on the principle of gravity, using the stress and friction method, and it needs no power supply to operate. Hence, little maintainece is required and is not complicated to maintain.
                        Fire hose is pretty simple too, but it still requires annual inspection and testing and even hose which only sees daylight once a year has been know to fail just from sitting around. I think the concern is that, as this is a suspended system, should connections deteriorate or other sources of failure attack the system (birds and mice come to mind) you could have a half dozen people dive into this thing and the whole kit and kaboodle end up in a lump on the ground a second later.

                        Such a failure would not only be bad for those trying to escape, but would also have a negative impact on all other installations.

                        As for sprinklers, you need not change the fire service's attitudes about sprinkers, I think most everyone here would love to see residential sprinklers mandated, but the politics of sprinklers will not allow it (even though such a mandate might be construded as a way to reduce staffing levels at an FD even further). Sprinklers have a fantastic track record, and the odd failure can be almost always blamed on faulty maintenance. Any failures are quickly forgotten as there are so many success stories. We also realize that many sprinkler systems are poorly maintained and no matter how much we inspect and threaten fines there will always be bad landlords who cute corners.

                        An escape chute, however, would rarely be used, and any failure would stand out (imagine the headlines "12 die in highrise as escape chute falls from supports") with no long proven record of success.
                        ________________________________________________
                        If you are new to posting please CLICK HERE for an essential lesson
                        ________________________________________________
                        A bad day in the boat is better than a good day in the office. And in my case the office is a boat!

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                        • #27
                          We also realize that many sprinkler systems are poorly maintained and no matter how much we inspect and threaten fines there will always be bad landlords who cut corners.

                          When one installed sprinkler system in one's building, does one expect such system to be of frequently used to suppress fire in that building? Otherwise would one consider it to be too costly to install such a system that would rarely be used?

                          Likewise for escape chute, the owner for such installation would hope that it would never have to be used. However, should a fire emergency arises, the landlord of the building would expect the fire suppression system to work, and the escape chute to get more people down to the ground rapidly.

                          Given that all fire protection, extinguishing system and equipment need to have regular maintenance to ensure that it will work at all time and to protect them from vandalism, misuse, etc., this egress chute is no exception! It is a life saving chute!

                          Infact this escape chute system that I'm referring to has got liabilities and warranties under its servicecare annual maintenance contract. The country service agent will inspect every half-yearly to ensure all critical parts of the chute installation are in order. From what I know there are chutes of over 10 years old and are still in good conditions for use in fire emergencies because of the periodic servicecare maintenance.

                          You can read from a report at www.minerals.nsw.gov.au "Down the chute to safety". Fitting escape chutes paid off for Bulge Coal when an employee used one to escape safety from a burning excavator. I understand the there are over thousands of such chute system installed in many buildings worldwide and yet to know of any failures so far. Even should there be any failures, one should examine its caused. Is it due to chute constructions, or poor maintenance, or........ But I have come across news on "Fatal ladder collapse".

                          In the context of the current Fire Code, it is not required to provide escape chute in a building for escape or rescue purposes. Would the Fire Department have any objection for it to be used as a supplement in addition to the required exit provisions? Could building owners provide such egress facilities to enhance their building emergency preparedness? Do thay have to seek the FD approval prior installation? Or should such chute need to seek authorities approval?

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by escapeconsult
                            When one installed sprinkler system in one's building, does one expect such system to be of frequently used to suppress fire in that building?
                            No, they are simply complying with local and state law requiring a sprinkler be installed.

                            Very few property owners install sprinklers with the expectation that they will ever be used (all too familiar "it will never happen to me" mentality). They install basic systems because building codes require it. Since a sprinkler system will add up to (depending on who you ask) 10% to the cost of building a strucure you can rest assured if they could they would not.

                            Occationally advanced systems will be installed to gain some reduction in insurance rates, but I would be willing to bet very few are installed because the owner really wants fire protection.

                            Interesting article, here is a better link to the story...
                            http://www.minerals.nsw.gov.au/safet..._03_Page_9.pdf
                            ________________________________________________
                            If you are new to posting please CLICK HERE for an essential lesson
                            ________________________________________________
                            A bad day in the boat is better than a good day in the office. And in my case the office is a boat!

                            IACOJ Fire Boat 1

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                            • #29
                              originally posted by Fire304
                              No, they are simply complying with local and state law requiring a sprinkler be installed.
                              Accidents cannot always be avoided, and problems often occur in the worst possible circumstances. "Safety thinking" has radically changed since 9-11. The dramatic events surrounding the WTC have influenced the demand for the escape chute in buildings. For safety's sake, the best way is to be efficiently prepared for everything even if the local and state law does not require it to do so. No price should be too high to achieve that goal.

                              Would the local and state law have any objection for it to be used as a supplement in addition to the required exit provisions? Could building owners provide such egress facilities to enhance their building emergency preparedness? Do thay have to seek the FD approval prior installation? Or should such chute need to seek authorities approval?

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by escapeconsult
                                No price should be too high to achieve that goal.
                                Unfortunately this ideal is not practical. There is a price people are willing to pay to save lives, the FAA even has a dollar per life saved figure they use when deciding to require safety modifications to aircraft. The chances of another 9-11 attack hitting a major highrise is fairly slim, and even if it does happen again, how many targets are there? Could this system be retrofitted into the Empire State building or any other existing "target"?

                                If you can convince a landlord to exceed the basic requirements to build into their new property, all the more power to you. I think an easier way to get these things installed would be the insurance route, a major discount which covers the cost of installation would prompt some to install them.

                                As to your question about codes and getting approval from the local FD, that is a more complicated question than I can answer difinitively. I guess that if this device were to be used to meet the code required number of exits then I imagine you'd have to have approval and certification. As a suppliment I don't think so, but it would not hurt to check in with the FD and let them know what you are doing. Approval may be a matter of symantics depending on what you call it.
                                ________________________________________________
                                If you are new to posting please CLICK HERE for an essential lesson
                                ________________________________________________
                                A bad day in the boat is better than a good day in the office. And in my case the office is a boat!

                                IACOJ Fire Boat 1

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