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emergency exit

Simple drop shaft for people.
  [vote for,

(Updated to reply to comments:)

Instead of stairs or ladders, install vertical tubes with "breakaway" platforms every foot or so.

A user steps on the topmost platform, causing it to fold apart and drop them on the next lower platform. Each platform would absorb just enough momentum to keep the user from falling freely.

It would feel like falling twelve inches many times in rapid succession. The system would be inherently redundant; if any one platform failed to absorb the impact, the user would just get a two-foot drop onto the next lower platform.

The platforms would be controlled by hydraulic shock absorbers like those found in door closers; these could absorb almost any initial shock (i.e. support different sized users) and then open at a fixed rate. After the user passes through, a small spring returns each platform to its initial position.

The tube would be open at the side on the bottom, so the user could simply step out. It could either be located just outside the building or just inside the building.

Why not just use stairs? Well, stairs take up a lot more space (like, an order of magnitude), take a lot longer to get down, and require a one-way gate at the bottom for security. If there were a fire in a 75-story building, would you want to race all the way down via stairs?

Besides, this is œ-bakery -- we're supposed to be free of the tyranny of tradition here. Right?

egnor, Apr 26 2000

Building Escape Links http://alum.mit.edu...uilding-escape.html
Actual systems and other halfbakery ideas [beland, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Rubber evacuation shaft Rubber_20evacuation_20shaft
This version is better [omegatron, May 07 2006]


       Neat idea.   

       Sort of like human-sized peristalsis.   

       Make the platforms soft, "muscular" and more prevalant, and you might be able to make it run both ways.   

       I imagine a bunch of inflatable bladders could accomplish this nicely, too.   

       HR Giger meets the fire escape?
tomierna, Apr 27 2000

       I remember reading an old Popular Science where a company had invented a teflon-coated tube that would stretch as a human slid through it. The tension of the contracted tube would keep the person falling at a non-lethal speed. Never saw it again, I bet friction heat-buildup was a problem.
koz, Apr 27 2000

       With Teflon, it shouldn't be too bad...I remember seeing that too...you could slow yourself down by spreading your arms to stretch the material more...   

       Personally, if the choice is some friction burns on my elbows or a man in a dark suit patting me on the face with a shovel, there's no choice at all...
StarChaser, Apr 28 2000

       How about a bungee cord attached to an acceleration sensing harness? When the harness senses that you're within five feet of the ground and slowed to zero velocity, it releases the cord and you drop safely the last few feet.
Eeyore, May 01 2000

       It seems to me that theese later ideas keep increasing in both complexity and required level of awareness for the escaping victim. When you really think about it, not much can be more simple to use or build than a fire escape stairway.
dontthink, May 02 2000

       Interesting, except that this drop shaft would have to have some sort of horizontal shift in order for you to get OUT of the building.   

       That we are already used to stairs is a great point. Why simplicify something that is a universal standard? (The standard size for stairs is roughly 7" vertical, 11" horizontal). Nearly everybody can escape down a flight of stairs.
dontthink, May 03 2000

       In addition to the fine points raised above, how would you make this contraption work for people of varying sizes? Another consideration would be for people trying to carry other people out through the exit.
centauri, May 04 2000

       Interesting idea, but after one person used it, all the platforms would be broken, and no one else could escape.   

       [nevermind... egnor seems to have addressed this point now in the idea text]   

       However, if there was a mechanical problem, and one of the platforms failed to open, there could be big problems, especially if multiple people came down the chute afterwards.
PotatoStew, May 04 2000, last modified Jun 06 2001

       One downside is that only one person could likely use it at once, and that people would need to space themselves out somewhat so that no unfortunate traffic jams -- in which masses of people get jumbled together and get stuck or cause mechanical problems -- occur. People might like to leave the vicinity of raging fires faster than this would allow, but there could always be a bunch of tubes in parallel.   

       The problem of people who can't navigate stairs and would have to be carried down them is where this idea shines -- anyone at all can fall down a tube, whereas there is a lot of potential for problems with people being carried down many flights of stairs, or, for that matter, being in the middle of a mob of people fleeing down many flights of stairs at great speed.
Monkfish, Nov 06 2000

       I recently saw pictures of a big brick schoolhouse (three or four stories) that had been retrofitted with helical escape slides instead of staircases. They were in steel towers, somewhat narrower than grain silos, just outside the original building. People who had grown up with them remembered the practice drills fondly.
hello_c, Nov 07 2000

       All the above... and wouldn't the initial sense of shop be amplifies by claustrophobia? This idea is sadly only minutely less sensical than paving the road with mattresses. Thanks,
Tzvi, Jun 06 2001

       I'm sorry for double-posting, but wouldn't this be akin to having stairs that 'fold' down, ala scooby doo? Or we could all wear cotton straightjackets and rollerblades. Heck, I''m donning my outfit as we speak.
Tzvi, Jun 06 2001

       Hey, I've got this one, too! I just though I'd explain it a little further, for the people who are against the idea. First of all, in an emergency, it would be better than stairs, for people with disabilities, and the elderly. People of all sizes can use it, and you can use either your arms, or legs to slow yourself down. It would also work for people carrying others (ie. parents with children, ect.). Yes, people with clausterphobia would have some problems with this, but most people would rather get out of a burning building quickly, than be stuck in a stairwell filled up with other people.
moldygrapes, Sep 18 2001

       Ow! I hit my chin on the floor on the way down and snapped my spine!
beland, May 26 2003

       I'm confused; why would this be safer in a fire than an elevator, which we're always told not to use?
beland, May 26 2003

       [bob]: They haven't been this way for long time. These are now illegal in new buildings. Most now are resistive switches (sense ground potential differences with your finger, like touch-lamps). About the only use for heat switches are the buttons for the bottom or ground floor, where excessive heat build-up (during a fire) will force the elevator to the ground, instead of stopping on every floor.
Cedar Park, May 27 2003

       I thought most elevator buttons were, you know, like, buttons. Electrical contacts that alert a controller that the button was pressed.   

       I also thought that elevators return to the ground floor automatically not because of excessive heat, but because they are programmed to when the fire alarm goes off, so that people don't try to use them, and so that the fire fighters can more efficiently use them to get to the fire, if need be.   

       I had imagined that elevators were unsafe in a fire because there's no way to proceed cautiously. It's difficult to notice the elevator shaft getting hotter and hotter, and it's not feasible to make sure that the floor the elevator door is about to open onto isn't ablaze.   

       These exit tubes would create a similar problem - there's no way to stop yourself from falling into an uninhabitable zone, whereas with a stairway, you can stop and turn around at any point, and test doors to see if they're hot before you open them.
beland, May 28 2003

<Thunk, thunk , thunk, thunk, thunk>
FloridaManatee, May 28 2003

       How about a harness with a spooled cable attached to some sort of centrifugal clutch or torque converter mounted to the building? This unit could be made to attach to a window sill. Just climb out the window and let go, and the clutch/TC would limit your descent speed. Cable lengths could vary based on building height. 1 person per unit though.
TitaniumZ, May 29 2003

       Just attach inflatable slides to the side of a building, activated by the fire alarm. Each slide allows the transition of 4 floors, where upon the next slide starts, taking you the opposite direction. You zig-zag your way down the building, muchos funus! Even have a big bounce castle at the bottom....
silverstormer, May 29 2003


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