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Fire Escape Flag Poles

Double-duty, and not just for firemen any more!
  [vote for,

Here I am independently inventing something similar to what I see [DeathNinja] wrote in the Idea "Jump Elevator" (linked). He mentioned a 20-story fire pole as a means of tenants in an apartment to get down (since that particular elevator only goes UP). Well, I only found that comment by searching for "fire pole" AFTER I thought of it -- but here I am talking about OUTSIDE the building.

Consider New York City's former twin World Trade Center towers. Now imagine that each tower was closely surrounded by a number of regularly spaced flagpoles (10 meter intervals perhaps), all about 3 meters from the building itself. These 111+floor-high concrete-filled steel flagpoles are of course attached at the ground and at the top of the building, and some other attachment points may be needed, also (but maybe not). Note that I specified that the poles are taller than the 110-floor buiding; you access them for flag-flying from the roof, using a portable cantilevered catwalk.

In case of fire, and of course for fire drills, you jump out an appropriate window, catch a pole (only 3 meters or 10 feet away), and slide to the ground. Humans who don't believe they have enough ape in their ancestry are welcome to escape some other way -- perhaps a 110-floor spiral slide -- along with, of course, various other challenged types, like toddlers.

A big building is going to have a lot of these poles, so a lot of people can be easily accommodated, not to mention multiple people per pole. Even if a bunch are snapped by some disaster like a colliding jet, many poles will remain.

Vernon, May 19 2004

Jump Elevator http://www.halfbake...dea/Jump_20Elevator
NOT the inspiration for this Idea. [Vernon, Oct 04 2004]

A tall building with a bunch of flagpoles http://www.micahmor...ges/un_building.jpg
Too bad these are neither close enough nor tall enough.... [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 31 2007]


       The poles would have to be attached to the structure every 100m or so - with out being attached, they will become long pieces of flexable wire - when someone jumps on to the pole from the middle floors the pole will bend dramatically away from the building, causing others jumpers to miss their mark (messy!).   

       Other than that, + for adding a challenge to fire drills!
1st2know, May 19 2004

       OK, no problem on adding support connections, except for having to watch out for them while sliding down the pole. Regarding the challenge, I figure that if every 2-floor house and multi-floor apartment was equipped, then people (especially kids) would be able to get lots of practice. (and if even short poles had connecting supports in the middle, getting by them could be practiced, too). Acrobats would sneer at such a "challenge".
Vernon, May 19 2004

       Aren't you concerned about people's arms catching on fire?
Worldgineer, May 19 2004

       No. People sliding down poles, especially if practiced, will be too slow for that -- although still fast enough to reach the ground from a tall building in a couple minutes or less.
Vernon, May 19 2004

       And when one 300 pounder at the top of the pole can no longer hang on?
Gromit, May 19 2004

The Kat, May 19 2004

       [Gromit], look at the math: assume a 500-meter building (none are that tall yet), and ask about the rate of pole-sliding to do the whole distance in, say, 3 minutes. this is 180 seconds so the division means sliding at less than 2.8 meters per second (a bit more than 9 ft/sec for the metrically challenged). I THINK this is close to ordinary fire-department fire-pole sliding speed, but perhaps it is a little fast.   

       If I recompute for 4 minutes or 240 seconds, then we get less than 2.1 m/sec (less than 7 ft/sec). About one average adult body-length per second (including raised arms). Note that the practiced pole-slider will not use hands much; most gripping will be done with legs and arms entwined around the pole. These are quite strong muscles, and few people will have trouble with this kind of grip for only 4 minutes -- and remember that MOST buildings are lots shorter than 500 meters, so even less gripping time is involved here.   

       All that, and I haven't even mentioned the support struts that attach the poles to the building at various places, and which might qualify as a "rest stop" --only if really needed, of course. For example, how sure are you that your 300-lb weakling both never practiced AND STILL chose the fire-pole escape over some other method?
Vernon, May 20 2004

       If I'm sliding pretty fast, how do I know a support is coming and when to stop? I'm afraid I'd get peeled off the pole by the support.
oxen crossing, May 20 2004

       I'd say this would work for the young and strong, the rest are still going to take their chances on the stairs.
dentworth, May 20 2004

       I was simply taking in to account the behavior that might be exhibited in a life-or-death panic situation. Some people would try to escape via the most available means.   

       I think the pole support and human nature both spell doom for this idea.   

       Of course, these are supposed to be halfbaked ideas, are they not?
Gromit, May 20 2004

       [dentworth], that's OK. The point is that with additional escape possibilities, no single way will get overcrowded, and the total evacuation will happen more quickly.   

       [oxen crossing], there is a limit to "pretty fast", because you don't want to contact the GROUND too fast. Consider an ordinary 1-floor house, and think about stepping off the roof and falling to the ground. Gravity will accelerate you at the rate of 9.8 m/sec/sec. How fast will you reach the ground? The appropriate equations say that after one second you will have travelled 4.9 meters (about 16 feet) and be moving at 9.8 m/sec (or 32 ft/sec). Since the edge of the roof of that single-floor house is probably less than 5 meters from the ground, you can be sure that one second is more than enough time.   

       It is well known that that landing speed is too fast for most people -- a bad landing from that height often sprains joints, or breaks bones, and sometimes kills. So, if you are sliding at a safe speed for landing, then you are also sliding at a safe speed for hitting a support strut. I do wonder why you seem to assume you won't have practiced, and also won't see it as you approach it (in which case you would slow yourself). If the supports added some extra danger to this Idea (besides the obvious possibility of missing the pole you jumped for), then I'd expect the top part of each support (unseen from ground level) to be painted with some glaring colors, just to warn pole-sliders.   

       When reaching a support, there are only about three outcomes. You may contact it foot-first and ONE leg will bend, while the other leg and both arms are still entwined around the pole. That bent leg will lead to stopped motion on your part (if foot slips, then that leg will instead catch the bar).   

       Or, depending on how your legs are entwined, the sides of your calves could contact the support at about the same time, and your crossed legs will work together to stop your motion.   

       Finally, your legs may contact the support at an angle that will cause your body to rotate a bit. Then (50/50 chance if not prepared/practiced) you will either contact the pole with your crossed arms or with your crotch. The latter means you will stop suddenly and probably painfully; the former is the ideal case because you can momentarily let your arms flow around the support as you keep sliding, while still securely holding on with entwined legs.   

       I'm sure that nobody will now question the need for practice with this fire-escape technique. :)
Vernon, May 20 2004

       This would be absolutely exhausting and very,very painful for normal people.   

       To slide down one of these poles safely, a person must clutch the pole tightlly to create necessary friction. This is very tiring, and the resulting friction hurts like heck! It's sustainable for short hauls, but sliding down a tall building??
Enjoyer, May 20 2004

       [Gromit], around here "halfbaked" has multiple meanings. It might be "wildly off-the-wall" or it might simply be something practical that hasn't been done yet. Or some of both...heh, heh, heh.   

       [Enjoyer], there is an assumption here that most people in the building are wearing clothes, and that the CLOTHES, not human skin, will be providing the friction. The biggest exceptions are likely to be short-sleeve shirts and women in short skirts without hose (who might not want to use this escape system due to people below looking up).   

       One thing that I have been considering, as an addition to this Idea, and which also is a semi-answer to the problem you posed, is a "Open in Case of Fire" box next to each window where people could escape to a pole, and in that box might be several sets of gloves and other things to make it easier. Chalk dust, perhaps. Friction straps (wrap one around pole instead of your bare arms). Etc.   

       Regarding muscular strain, I think this is not quite so strenuous as you imply, and in a prior annotation I computed the need for such strain as only 4 minutes max. Why is that too much?
Vernon, May 20 2004

       I'm curious.....how many of us halfbakers are active, physically fit types that still think this would be a tough challenge, and how many of us are desk jockeys that think this is readily doable?   

       I fall somewhere inbetween the two....I swim, dive, mountain bike, and laze and read on the couch, or surf the web.   

       I think this would have an extremely high casualty rate.
normzone, May 20 2004

       [Vernon] If I was wearing a short skirt, I wouldn't care much because this is, after all, a fire escape. The pole supports would be an issue, and I don't think easily solved (at least not by me). However, to make it easier to access, there could be little walkways leading to the pole, which stop far enough away for most people to pass through but close enough that the unconfident can reach and grab.
igirl, May 20 2004

       [normzone], to quote Larry Niven, "Think of it as evolution in action." Actually I think that most people who practiced would KNOW whether or not they would choose this method in a crunch. And it is practice, of course, that would have the greatest effect on the casualty rate. Note that special practice places might be set up in bars (large ones, with open spaces of at least 2 floors high) as entertainment, the way people once climbed into Velcro suits then jumped to see how high they could stick to a wall. Just put that pole through a net or a trampoline, and practice jumping-to-catch-it. Practice dealing with support struts. Practice timing, with some people sliding down from the ceiling while others jump-to-catch-the-pole-ONLY. With enough practice, some people may even lose some excess weight, and tone up some muscles....   

       [igirl], if you really think that a mere 3-meter jump is too far, well, the poles COULD simply be located only 2 meters or even 1 from the building. I only specified 3 because, aestheticly, the poles are not intended to look like PART of the building. Existing exterior fire-escape ladders are so bulky and ugly. These are disguised as flagpoles, remember?
Vernon, May 20 2004

       A lot of thought went in to this idea, and the arguments supporting it.Too much I think.Why not just have the sidewalk/ footpath surrounding the building rise up around it in the case of a fire so the occupants could step on to it ?
python, May 22 2004

       The firepoles are a cute notion, but really unworkable. Someone sliding down a pole would not be well positioned, nor particularly inclined, to look below them. If the person below them was sliding more slowly, the one on top would likely collide with the one on the bottom, sending that person careening down so they hit everyone below. Not good.   

       Having a few thousand drag line assemblies might be better. Getting 1000' of cable onto a reasonable-sized spool along with a suitable braking mechanism might be hard, but not necessarily impossible.   

       My own personal preferred method of evacuation would be to have some escalators that descended four floors per flight and could operate in 'down' mode without electricity whenever anyone was on one. Except at the very bottom, the escalators could be overlapped so that one would serve floors 1, 5, 9, 14, 18, etc. while one served 2, 6, 10, 15, 19, etc. and so forth. The escalator system as a whole would have four times the capacity of a single system that went a floor at a time, while requiring much less walking and using much less space for landings.
supercat, May 23 2004

       [supercat], there really shouldn't be that many people per pole, partly because this idea is intended to be an ADDITION to existing fire escape methods, and partly because there would be lot of poles. Your own notion is OK. There is of course a limit to how many different kinds of fire escapes can exist INSIDE a building, because otherwise there wouldn't be anything else in the building. Making escalators do double-duty is good. Thanks for the feedback!
Vernon, May 23 2004

       vernon too many poles and the outside of your building will look like a prison.
engineer1, May 24 2004

       [engineer1], I tend to agree. But in the main text I mentioned something like 10 meters of space between poles (30-odd feet). I don't know what the ground-plan dimensions were of the World Trade Center towers, but it seems to me that they were large enough that spacing would have allowed quite a few poles.
Vernon, May 24 2004


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