Title:
Building evacuation and rescue apparatus
United States Patent 3921757


Abstract:
An adjustable, concave safety net for rescuing a person falling from a tall structure by gradually slowing his speed of descent. The safety net is attached between two horizontal cross arms that laterally spread the net and form it into two wide, inward sloping sides. The cross arms are attached to two adjustable telescoping booms that elevate both the safety net and the cross arms from the flat bed of a truck. The safety net includes both a concave upper section that extends between the cross arms and also a lower section that extends below one half of the upper section to form a sloping lateral exit trough. The cross arms also have a plurality of nozzles that can wet the entire safety net in order to reduce its friction and prevent the net from catching on fire.



Inventors:
KENNEDY THOMAS N
Application Number:
05/495232
Publication Date:
11/25/1975
Filing Date:
08/06/1974
Assignee:
KENNEDY; THOMAS N.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
182/140
International Classes:
A62B1/22; (IPC1-7): A62B1/22; A62B1/20
Field of Search:
182/48,49,137,138,139,140
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
1099094N/A1914-06-02Lovas
0568960N/A1896-10-06
0480139N/A1892-08-02
0312415N/A1885-02-17



Primary Examiner:
Machado, Reinaldo P.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Flehr, Hohbach, Test, Albritton & Herbert
Claims:
I claim

1. An apparatus for rescuing a person who is falling from a tall structure by gradually slowing his speed of descent, comprising:

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein one portion of the lower section is removably attached to one portion of the upper section to form said laterally sloping exit trough.

3. An apparatus for rescuing a person who is falling from a tall structure by gradually slowing his speed of descent, comprising;

4. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein both booms are mounted on a single platform on said vehicle for combined rotation about a vertical axis.

5. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein both booms are independently elevatable from the vehicle by hydraulic actuators that pivot the booms about two horizontal parallel axes.

6. The apparatus of claim 3 further including a bucket attached to one of the booms for positioning an operator in view of the safety net and including means accessible to the operator in said bucket for remotely controlling said elevating, telescoping and adjusting means.

7. The apparatus of claim 3 further including means for wetting the surface of said safety net with a liquid.

8. The apparatus of claim 3 wherein each cross arm includes a central member rigidly connected to each boom and two remote members hingedly connected to the central member, whereby said remote members are foldable about the central member for storage and are extendable into substantially co-axial relationship with the central member for operation.

Description:
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention generally relates to safety and lifesaving appliances and, more particularly, to mobile building evacuation and rescue structures that are positionable outside of a building on the ground.

2. Description of the Prior Art

In the past the most commonly used building evacuation device was the portable life ring. The life ring is a rigid circular ring that resiliently supports a centrally mounted safety net. In operation, five or six people hold the life ring at waist height, and the person being rescued falls into the center of the ring. Although the life ring is widely used and carried in most emergency vehicles, it cannot be used to evacuate people from tall buildings or to rescue people falling from great heights. The people holding the ring cannot physically absorb the impact of a person falling into the net at high speed. In addition, the life ring so abruptly decelerates the person being rescued that there is always the possibility that the person will be injured. Moreover, there is a substantial problem in locating the life ring directly below the person to be rescued since those holding the ring do not have a satisfactory vantage point and the ring has a relatively small impact area.

Heretofore, other building evacuation structures have been proposed, but none so far has proved to be practically feasible. These prior art evacuation structures require extensive rigging and ground handling equipment. Moreover, they are very complicated to manufacture and are too costly for the usual metropolitan fire department or rescue agency to purchase.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to an apparatus for rescuing a person who is falling from a tall structure by gradually slowing his speed of descent. The apparatus includes a safety net that is spread to form an upward opening concave surface underneath the person being rescued. The safety net is supported by two adjustable telescoping booms that are rotatable and elevatable from an emergency vehicle. The telescoping booms each have a cross arm that laterally spreads the safety net between the booms and forms two wide inward sloping sides in the net.

In operation, the apparatus is erected directly beneath the person being rescued so that when falling into the net the the person first engages one of the sloping sides of the net near the top of the apparatus. Thereafter, the person slides down the concave surface of the net and up the other side, his speed of descent gradually slowing. The person being rescued next passes through an exit port in the safety net and slides down a lateral sloping exit trough to the ground.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a novel apparatus that overcomes the limitations and disadvantages of the prior art.

A further object of the present invention is to rescue a person falling from a structure by gradually slowing his speed of descent. The present invention gradually slows the rate of descent of the person who is falling by gradually redirecting his downward motion horizontally, by having him slide up the other side of the safety net, and through frictional contact between his body and the fabric of the safety net.

An additional object of the present invention is to permit the evacuation of people from greater heights and taller buildings than heretofore possible. Instead of abruptly stopping the descent of people being rescued, the present invention contemplates gradually slowing down the rate of descent of people entering the safety net at high velocities.

A further object of the present invention is to provide a safety net that extends over a wide area. Such a safety net reassures frightened people that they will be safely rescued and also minimizes the chance that such people will miss the net. The present invention also makes it very hard for people attempting to take their own lives to avoid the net.

An additional object of the present invention is to provide a safety net that has sloping sides and a concave surface that can be adjusted. The present invention permits the slope of the safety net to be varied in order to compensate for the differing heights from which people fall. The present invention can also be adjusted to pass beneath obstructions such as electrical and telephone wires.

Other objects and features of the invention will appear from the following description in which the preferred embodiment has been set forth in detail in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic perspective view of a building evacuation and rescue apparatus illustrating the apparatus in operation according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a diagrammatic perspective view of the building evacuation apparatus of FIG. 1 depicting the erection of the booms and the unfolding of the safety net; and

FIG. 3 is a side elevational view of the building evacuation apparatus of FIG. 1 illustrating the telescoping booms secured for storage and transportation.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIGS. 1, 2, and 3, reference numeral 6 generally indicates an emergency vehicle for transporting the building evacuation and rescue apparatus 7. The emergency vehicle 6 is a conventional flatbed truck equipped with red warning lights and a siren. The emergency vehicle also has a plurality of stabilizing outriggers 11 and a rotatable platform 12 mounted on the after end to support the rescue apparatus. The rotatable platform is hydraulically powered and capable of at least 180° of rotation about the vertical axis. The rotatable platform serves as a base for two adjustable telescopic booms 14, 16. The construction and operation of these booms is well known in the aerial crane art where such booms are used to raise outdoor advertising signs into position on tall structures. Each boom is extended and retracted by a system of cables and sheaves that has been omitted from the drawings for clarity. In the present invention these cables and sheaves are located along the bottom of the booms out of the way of the safety net. In addition, each boom is individually raised and lowered by hydraulic actuators 18 that pivot the booms about two horizontal, parallel axes. Boom 14, hereinafter identified as the forward boom, is raisable to an acute angle with r respect to the bed of the truck. Boom 16, hereinafter identified as the after boom, is raisable to an oblique angle with respect to the bed of the truck. Both booms are mounted together on the rotatable platform 12 for combined rotation about the vertical axis.

Mounted on the free ends of the forward and after booms 14, 16 are two lateral cross arms 20, 22. Each cross arm comprises three tubular sections: a central section 23 rigidly mounted to the boom orthogonal to its longitudinal axis and two outer sections 25, 27 each mounted to the central section by hinges 24. The three sections of each cross arm can be folded together for storage and transportation as illustrated in FIG. 3 and can also be opened up to form one elongate lateral span as illustrated in FIG. 2. The outer sections 25, 27 of the cross arms are moved into position by hydraulic actuators 26 located at each hinge. The three sections of each cross arm are proportioned so that when folded together for transportation the cross arms do not extend beyond the width of the vehicle 6 and when folded out for operation the cross arms can be extended to maximize the span.

Referring to FIG. 1, both cross arms 20, 22 have a plurality of small nozzles 28 spaced along the elongate span. The nozzles are connected to a supply of fluid (not shown) on the emergency vehicle 6 and can spray the safety net with this fluid. The nozzles can wet the safety net with the fluid so as to reduce the friction of the net material and thereby permit the people being rescued to slide more easily in the safety net. The nozzles can also wet the material in order to prevent it from catching on fire during those rescue operations near burning buildings.

Reference numeral 34 generally indicates the safety net attached to the cross arms 20, 22 and spread between the booms 14, 16. The safety net 34 includes a substantially rectangular upper section 36 that forms an upward opening, concave surface between the booms when the rescue apparatus is erected. In FIG. 1 the upper section of the net spreads between the booms to create two wide inward sloping sides in its surface. The upper section is secured to the cross arms 20, 22 by either looping the material over the arms and securing it in place or by using a plurality of metal rings that encircle the cross arms. It should also be noted that there is a plurality of tucks 40 located along the edge of the safety net to shorten the unsecured margin of the net. These tucks form a longitudinal trough in the upper section of the net so that the people being rescued will not fall out of the safety net while they are sliding longitudinally therein. In addition, there is a plurality of reinforced exit ports 42 located in the upper section of the net near the forward cross arm 20. The exit ports provide egress from the upper section 36 for the person being rescued and are displaced away from the forward boom 14 so that the person does not hit it.

The safety net 34 also includes a lower section 38 that is substantially rectangular in shape and approximately one half the size of the upper section. The lower section is connected to the upper section 36 both at the margin nearest the forward cross arm 20 and also along the central latitudinal axis of the safety net. The lower section includes two extended lateral portions 44 at either end. The extended lateral portions can be removably attached to the upper section 36 of the net to form the closed end of the lateral exit trough. The opposite extended portion can be held by two operators who assist the people being rescued out of the safety net. The lower section of the safety net thus forms a sloping lateral trough beneath the upper section through which the people being rescued can slide from the exit ports 42 to the ground. The lateral exit trough leads directly to a cushion 48 located on the ground. It is contemplated that the lateral trough can be formed on either side of the safety net depending on which side is free from interference from the emergency vehicle 6.

The upper and lower sections of the safety net can be fabricated from any low friction, strong, lightweight, easily fireproofed, tear resistant material. In the preferred embodiment parachute nylon is used.

A bucket 50 for holding an operator of the rescue apparatus is attached to the forward boom 14 at the intersection of the forward cross arm 20. The bucket provides a vantage point for the operator who can observe both the positioning of the safety net and the passage of the people being rescued through the apparatus. Within the bucket are remote controls (not shown) that permit the operator to manuever, adjust, and elevate the apparatus. There are additional remote controls (not shown) that are accessible to the operators standing on the ground.

The center of the safety net 34 is controlled by a restraining cord 52 that keeps the center of the safety net down and under control during windy weather. The restraining cord has a resilient spring (not shown) connecting it to the safety net. The length of the restraining cord is controlled by the operator using a motor operated spool (not shown) on the emergency vehicle 6. The retraining cord has an adjustable length in order to accomodate the adjustable elevation of the safety net 34.

In operation, the emergency vehicle 6 carrying the building evacuation and rescue apparatus 7 arrives on the scene with the apparatus positioned in the storage condition illustrated in FIG. 3. The outer sections 25, 27 of the cross arms 20, 22 are folded together upon the rigid center section 23 and the after boom 16 is positioned on top of the forward boom 14. The emergency vehicle is first parked at a convenient location proximate to the tall structure 9. Thereafter, the hydraulic system (not shown) for the booms is activated and the bucket 50 is swung into position so that the operator can climb inside. Next, the operator telescopically extends the booms and elevates them into position using the actuators 18. During this time the outriggers 11 are positioned to stabilize the vehicle. The outer movable sections 25, 27 of the cross arms 20, 22 are then folded out using the hydraulic actuators 26 as illustrated in FIG. 2. The operator in the bucket 50 next rotates the safety net 34 with the rotatable platform 12 to a position beneath the person being rescued. The operator has remote controls in the bucket permitting him to extend and retract the booms, to elevate the booms and to rotate the platform 12.

When the safety net 34 is in position below the person being rescued, the safety net forms a large, upward opening, concave surface. There is also a longitudinal trough in the upper section 36 of the net that extends between the forward and after cross arms 20, 22 so that the person being rescued cannot accidentally slide over the side edge of the net. During the process of erection one of the extended lateral portions 44 of the lower section of the net is attached to the upper section of the net thereby forming a lateral, sloping exit trough that leads both to the ground and the cushion 48. As the final erection step the operator adjusts the restraining cord 52 to hold the center of the safety net down and in position. Depending upon the situation at the rescue scene, the operator can also use the nozzles 28 to wet the surface of the safety net.

When the person being rescued falls from the tall structure 9, he first engages the sloping side of the safety net near the top of the apparatus. Thereafter, the person slides down the longitudinal trough in the upper surface 36 of the safety net, his speed of descent gradually slowing. The safety net breaks his fall and the friction of the safety net slows his descent. After sliding down the sloping side of the safety net, the person being rescued next slides up the opposite sloping side of the safety net. The concave surface of the safety net additionally slows the speed of descent of the person being rescued by sliding him upward toward the forward cross arm 20. Thereafter the person being rescued passes through one of the exit ports 42 and descends into the lateral exit trough formed by the lower section 38 of the safety net. Two operators hold one of the extended lateral portions 44 of the lower section of the safety net in order to form the opening of the lateral exit trough. The lateral trough slopes downward toward the ground so that the person being rescued can easily slide out of the apparatus.

After the rescue operation has been completed, the building evacuation and rescue apparatus is retracted back into its storage position on the emergency vehicle illustrated in FIG. 3. The procedure to store the rescue apparatus is the reverse of the erection procedure hereinbefore described and, for the sake of brevity, will not be repeated.

Although the best mode contemplated for carrying out the present invention has been herein shown and described, it will be apparent that modification and variation may be made without the parting from what is regarded to be subject matter of the invention.