Title:
Protective Hinge
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and methods for deploying a firefighting water reservoir, including foldable frame assemblies having vertical structural members and horizontal structural members configured to support a liner, are provided. The liner can be adapted to contain water. The horizontal structural members comprise a hinge adapted and arranged for folding and unfolding the foldable frame. The hinge comprises a hinge element that substantially prevents a user's appendage or the liner from becoming pinched during deployment or folding of the foldable frame assembly.



Inventors:
Heider, Craig (Humboldt, IA, US)
Application Number:
12/052497
Publication Date:
11/20/2008
Filing Date:
03/20/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D90/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070257048Drinking glass with a modular stemNovember, 2007Towery et al.
20070210089Mounting Arrangement And Method Of Mounting Elements On The Inner Lining Of Refrigerators And/Or Freezers And Method Of Producing Such Mounting ArrangmementSeptember, 2007Kauk et al.
20090223971ORGANIZER FOR ACCESSORY ITEMSSeptember, 2009Moffett
20090307971CONICAL CONTAINERDecember, 2009Driscoll
20070051737Utensil held near center of gravityMarch, 2007Baruch
20010010314Portable thermos receptaclesAugust, 2001Goto et al.
20080110892Bubble top and extender for hopperMay, 2008House
20040040971Progressive volume adjustable container to eliminate unused space within the containerMarch, 2004Athalye
20090206088CRATE FOR CONTAINERSAugust, 2009Ogburn
20060255052Container kit with graspable lidNovember, 2006Svitak
20060091140Microwaveable packaged good article overcapMay, 2006Perry et al.



Primary Examiner:
CASTELLANO, STEPHEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FISH & RICHARDSON P.C. (TC) (PO BOX 1022, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 55440-1022, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for deploying a fire fighting water reservoir, comprising: providing a frame assembly comprising a hinge to allow folding and unfolding of said frame assembly; and providing a liner configured to retain a volume of water that serves as a fire fighting water reservoir, wherein said liner is attached to said frame assembly; wherein said hinge comprises a frame comprising a top structural member and a bottom structural member, each of said top structural member and bottom structural member comprising at least one aperture configured to receive a fastening member that pivotally couples a proximal portion of at least one frame assembly structural member to said top structural member and said bottom structural member, thereby defining a pivot region bounded by said top structural member and said bottom structural member; and a first connecting member that spans between said top structural member and said bottom structural member, wherein said first connecting member is configured to substantially prevent pinching of a user's appendage during folding of said frame assembly; wherein said top structural member and said bottom structural member are generally opposed to one another and separated by a distance substantially equal to a width of a frame assembly structural member; and wherein said hinge frame surrounds said pivot region on at least four sides to provide protection against pinching said liner, an appendage of a user, or both between said proximal ends of said frame assembly structural members during folding or unfolding of the frame assembly.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising a second connecting member, generally opposed and parallel to said first connecting member, spanning between said top structural member and said bottom structural member, and having a length substantially equal to that of said top structural member or said bottom structural member.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein said at least one proximal portion of said frame assembly member abuts said second connecting member when said frame is in an unfolded configuration.

4. The method of claim 2, wherein said top structural member and said bottom structural member further comprises more than one inboard facing sides; wherein, when said frame assembly is in an unfolded configuration, said more than one inboard facing sides substantially faces the interior of said frame assembly; and wherein said one or more inboard facing sides meet to form an angle, wherein a vertex of said angle is generally disposed within said pivot region.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein said top and said bottom structural members are substantially rectangular.

6. The method of claim 4, wherein said angle is selected to provide a contiguous foldable frame assembly comprising a water reservoir having greater than four sides.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein said first connecting member further comprises a protective material configured to protect against mechanical damage to said structural members when said frame is in a folded configuration.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein said hinge frame is formed from a single, contiguous piece of material.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein said frame assembly structural members have a substantially circular cross-section.

10. The method of claim 1, wherein said horizontal structural member supports said liner using a fastening mechanism connecting said horizontal structural member and an aperture disposed in a periphery of said liner.

11. The method of claim 1, wherein said foldable frame assembly and said liner are brightly colored or adorned with reflective material to provide allow visual recognition in adverse conditions.

12. The method of claim 1, wherein said firefighting water reservoir has a capacity of about 600 United States gallons or more, up to about 5000 United States gallons.

13. The method of claim 1, wherein, when said tank is in an unfolded configuration, said tank comprises a water reservoir having from five (5) to nine (9) sides.

14. A system, comprising: a frame assembly comprising a hinge to allow folding and unfolding of said frame assembly; and a liner configured to retain a volume of water that serves as a fire fighting water reservoir, wherein said liner is attached to said frame assembly; wherein said hinge comprises a frame comprising a top structural member and a bottom structural member, each of said top structural member and bottom structural member comprising at least one aperture configured to receive a fastening member that pivotally couples a proximal portion of at least one frame assembly structural member to said top structural member and said bottom structural member, thereby defining a pivot region bounded by said top structural member and said bottom structural member; and a first connecting member that spans between said top and said bottom structural members, wherein said first connecting member is configured to substantially prevent pinching of a user's appendage during folding of said frame assembly; wherein said top structural member and said bottom structural member are generally opposed to one another and separated by a distance substantially equal to a width of a frame assembly structural member; and wherein said hinge frame surrounds said pivot region on at least four sides to provide protection against pinching said liner, an appendage of a user, or both between said proximal ends of said frame assembly structural members during folding or unfolding of the frame assembly.

15. The method of claim 14, further comprising a second connecting member, generally opposed and parallel to said first connecting member, spanning between said top structural member and said bottom structural member, and having a length substantially equal to that of said top structural member or said bottom structural member.

16. The system of claim 14, wherein said at least one proximal portion of said frame assembly member abuts said second connecting member when said frame is in an unfolded configuration.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein said top structural member and said bottom structural member further comprises more than one inboard facing sides; wherein, when said frame assembly is in an unfolded configuration, said more than one inboard facing sides substantially faces the interior of said frame assembly; and wherein said one or more inboard facing sides meet to form an angle, wherein a vertex of said angle is generally disposed within said pivot region.

18. The system of claim 14, wherein said top and said bottom structural members are substantially rectangular.

19. The system of claim 18, wherein said angle is selected to provide a contiguous foldable frame assembly comprising a water reservoir having greater than four sides.

20. The system of claim 14, wherein said first connecting member further comprises a protective material configured to protect against mechanical damage to said structural members when said frame is in a folded configuration.

21. The system of claim 14, wherein said hinge frame is formed from a single, contiguous piece of material.

22. The system of claim 14, wherein said frame assembly structural members have a substantially circular cross-section.

23. The system of claim 14, wherein said horizontal structural member supports said liner using a fastening mechanism connecting said horizontal structural member and an aperture disposed in a periphery of said liner.

24. The system of claim 14, wherein said foldable frame assembly and said liner are brightly colored or adorned with reflective material to provide allow visual recognition in adverse conditions.

25. The system of claim 14, wherein said firefighting water reservoir has a capacity of about 600 United States gallons or more, up to about 5000 United States gallons.

26. The system of claim 14, wherein, when said tank is in an unfolded configuration, said tank comprises a water reservoir having from five (5) to nine (9) sides.

27. A collapsible folding water tank, comprising: a frame system, comprising hingedly interconnected frame members; wherein said frame members comprise a metal or metal alloy bar having a substantially rectangular cross section, said bar having at least two ends, and at least two apertures disposed at each end; each of said frame members being coupled to adjacent frame members by a hinge element, said hinge element comprising top and bottom structural members, each comprising a first aperture and a second aperture adapted to receive a fastening member that pivotally couples a frame member to said top and bottom structural members and defining a first pivot point and a second pivot point at the locations of said apertures; a first connecting member that spans between said top and said bottom structural members configured to prevent a distal portion of two or more frame assembly structural members from contacting each other when said frame is in a folded configuration; wherein said top and bottom structural members are generally opposed to one another and separated by a distance substantially equal to a width of a frame assembly structural member; wherein said hinge element is configured to protect a user's appendage and a liner, or both, from being pinched or mechanically damaged when said frame system is folded or unfolded; wherein said hinge element is configured to allow said frame members to be folded into a compact configuration; wherein said liner comprises a web of material having at least one peripheral edge, and including a plurality of liner apertures disposed proximate to said peripheral edge, said web of material being substantially impermeable to water, said web having a fabric weight of about 17 to about 30 ounces per square yard; means for coupling said liner to said frame system, said means comprising an elongated member that extends through said apertures in said web and around said frame members such that when said frame member is in said expanded position, said peripheral edge of said web is held substantially adjacent to a plurality of said frame members, thereby defining a water reservoir volume; wherein said liner comprises chutes integrated within walls of said liner, said chutes being configured to rapidly drain the water reservoir volume; wherein said liner comprises means for elevating a portion of a floor of said liner, said means comprising handles adapted for grasping and lifting said floor, thereby directing water to drain from said liner in a preferred direction.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/941,521, filed on Jun. 1, 2007 and is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This disclosure relates to water tanks, and more particularly to portable water tanks with a protective hinge.

BACKGROUND

Despite advances in firefighting technology that have occurred over the past century, water still remains one of the best fire-suppressing materials known. Water can be applied to a fire directly, or chemical agents can be added to water to create foams that can smother a fire when applied. From the use of “bucket brigades” in the late 1600's to modern fire apparatuses and municipal water supply systems, establishing a water supply source is one step towards mitigating a fire. This can be a particularly arduous task when a water source is remote from the fire, such as in rural or forested areas, or where a municipal system is broken or undependable.

Most fire apparatuses carry a relatively small supply of water “on board,” meaning that they are constructed with tanks that carry a fixed water volume, allowing firefighters to affect at least some level of fire suppression before tapping into a larger water supply such as through a fire hydrant. Because the weight of on-board water can be strenuous to a fire apparatus, in many cases the volume of on-board water is limited to about 500 gallons—an amount insufficient to battle most fires. Tanker trucks are specialized fire suppression apparatus that can carry much larger volumes of water—up to 4000 gallons in some cases—with their primary function being to provide this water to engine companies.

Establishing a water supply at a fire scene is one of the first goals of an incident commander. In areas where a water supply is limited or unavailable, portable water tanks can be used to supply water to pumpers and other fire apparatus that, in turn, pump water to hoses and other suppression equipment. The portable water tank can be filled by a tanker, whose job it is to make repeated trips to a nearby water source, gather as much water as its tank will hold, drive back to the fire scene, and dump its contents into the portable water tank.

SUMMARY

A portable water storage device may, in certain embodiments, include a collapsible frame structure that comprises various frame members joined by hinges that include shields or guards that substantially prevent body parts such as fingers from being injured when the frame members are being articulated. In selected embodiments, the hinges of the water storage device comprise a U-shaped channel which substantially enclose the ends of the frame members during pivotal motion of the frame members. In some implementations, the water storage device can be rectangular in shape when articulated. In embodiments where the portable water tank assumes a shape other than a rectangle when articulated, the water storage device may comprise hinges that include shields or guards and allow pivotal motion for a range of obtuse angles.

The details of one or more embodiments are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features, objects, and advantages will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is one embodiment of a foldable water tank.

FIG. 2A is a schematic diagram of a hinge.

FIG. 2B is a reverse view of the hinge shown in FIG. 2A.

FIG. 2C is a top-view of the hinge shown in FIG. 2A.

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of a hinge.

Like reference symbols in the various drawings indicate like elements.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 is a foldable water tank according to one illustrative embodiment. The tank 100 includes horizontal frame assembly structural members (105) and vertical frame assembly structural members 110, and can optionally include diagonal frame assembly structural members, though not shown in FIG. 1, that can stabilize and add structural integrity to the tank 100 when articulated, or fully extended to an unfolded configuration. Taken together, the frame assembly structural members, i.e., the horizontal (105), vertical (110), and optionally diagonal frame assembly structural members comprise the tank “frame” which can support a liner 115 or other material designed to hold water within the frame assembly. The frame is shown in its unfolded, or “articulated” configuration in FIG. 1. A frame assembly structural member can be a continuous piece, or it may be fashioned from multiple frame assembly structural members joined together.

The frame assembly structural members can be made of materials suitable for the operational necessities of the tank 100. The strength of the frame assembly structural members can be chosen commensurate with the volume (and therefore the weight) of water that it will hold during operation. The selection of a particular material for the frame assembly structural members may take into account the overall weight of the tank 100, its desired portability, material cost, and other factors. In some embodiments, some frame assembly structural members are made of one material, e.g., steel, while other frame assembly structural members are made of another material, e.g., aluminum.

Preferred frame assembly structural member materials include metals such as aluminum that provide structural integrity and rust resistance combined with manageable weight. Metal alloys can also be used, such as steel, which can provide increased strength for larger tanks 100. In some embodiments, the frame assembly structural members are made of 14-gague structural steel or 16-gague structural steel. Further, plastic materials such as polyvinyl chloride (also known as “PVC”) can provide structural, rust resistance, and also electrical resistivity characteristics that may be advantageous in certain embodiments.

Frame assembly structural members 105, 110 in FIG. 1 are hollow tubes with a substantially rectangular cross-section, although other shapes can be appreciated, such as cylindrically-shaped tubes. The use of a hollow tube can significantly reduce the weight of the overall tank 100 versus using solid tubes. In some cases, a frame assembly structural members can have a cross-sectional width of about one inch, for example, ⅞-inch, 1 inch, or 1⅛-inch. In some cases, e.g., for cylindrical tubes, the outer diameter of a structural members can be about one inch, for example, ⅞-inch, 1 inch, or 1⅛-inch. In a preferred embodiment, the frame assembly structural members are hollow aluminum tubing, having a substantially square cross section, a cross-sectional width of one inch, and having tube walls of about ⅛-inch in thickness.

Liner 115 includes a floor 131 and walls 132. The floor 131 and walls 132 can be one continuous piece of material, or it can be formed from fastening smaller liner pieces together. A water egress port 150 allows for rapid discharge of water from the tank 100 when the tank is to be broken down and is integrated into the liner wall 132. The water egress port 150 can optionally be integrated into the floor 131 of the liner. An exemplary water egress port 150 includes a channel with a valve or flap that remains closed to retain water within the tank 100 and can be opened to drain the water. To aid in the draining process, one or more handles 160 are fashioned to the floor of the liner 115, allowing a user to grasp the handles 160 and lift in an upward direction, for example. This causes water remaining in the liner 115 to run downhill toward a water egress port 150 where it is expelled from the liner 115.

Common liner 115 materials can be used, including canvas tarps, polyethylene sheets, chlorosulfonated polyethylene synthetic rubbers, including Hypalon®, rubber, and vinyl. In some embodiments, the liner 115 may be brightly colored or adorned with reflective materials so as to provide visibility in adverse environmental conditions.

An optional drain port 133 is located on the floor of the liner 115 to aid in the draining process. In some embodiments, one end of a handle 160 is attached to the floor of the liner 115, while the other end extends up and over the top frame assembly structural member of the tank frame, e.g., frame assembly structural member 105. This configuration can allow a user to drain remaining water from the liner 115 without having to bend over the tank frame and reach for handles 160 on the bottom of the liner 115. The handles 160 can be made of the same material as the liner 115, or they may be constructed of other materials suited for the purpose of lifting the floor 131 of the liner 115, including rope, chain, nylon strapping, and the like.

A fastener 120 composed of a suitably strong material, such as aluminum or steel, is used to attach and support the tops of the liner walls 132 to an upper frame assembly structural member, for example frame assembly structural member 105, or other members of the frame generally on the same horizontal plane as member 105. A length of rope 125 or like material can similarly be used to support the liner 115 as depicted as an exemplary attachment mechanism in FIG. 1. Any article may be used as a fastener 120 that has the needed strength to hold the liner 115 when it is being used as a water reservoir. Exemplary fasteners include rings, ties, rope, bands, including steel bands, hooks, and hangers.

The foldable water tank 100 can be folded through the use of hinges 130. The hinges 130 can be positioned at strategic locations on the frame assembly structural members to allow the length of the frame assembly structural members 105 to be folded. In certain embodiments, multiple hinges 130 can be placed along a frame assembly structural member, allowing for further length reduction in the folded configuration, and also to allow for various folding configurations.

As shown in FIG. 1, the horizontal frame assembly structural members 105 can be folded inward (as illustrated by the dashed lines) vis-à-vis the hinges 130. It should be understood, however, that the hinges 130 can similarly be folded outward, in the opposite direction as the dashed lines in FIG. 1. Certain folding configurations can require that the hinge 130 provide folding of frame assembly structural members in one direction and an adjacent hinge provide folding of frame assembly structural members in the opposite direction. Such a folding configuration can be used to fold a tank 100 in an “accordion” fashion.

FIG. 2A is a schematic diagram of a hinge 200, according to one general aspect. A foldable water tank 100 can use such a hinge 200 to connect horizontal 105 or vertical 110 frame assembly structural members. FIG. 2A shows end portions of two frame assembly structural members 205 and 207 (which, for example, could be horizontal frame assembly structural members 105 and 107) hingedly connected to a hinge element 210. In general, hinge element 210 is a frame structure that substantially surrounds the proximal ends of the frame assembly structural members 205 and 207 and prevents pinching of a user's appendage, the liner, or other elements of the foldable water tank when the frame assembly is being folded or unfolded. Structural members 205 and 207 are preferably composed of a metal such as aluminum, or metal alloys, such as steel, but may be composed of any suitable material as has been described for a frame assembly structural member above. As described above, the frame assembly structural members may have a cross-section that is substantially square with reference to the long axis of the member, as depicted by the arrow on member 205, however frame assembly structural members with other cross-sectional shapes, such as circular, are also applicable.

In general, hinge element 210 can be a substantially U-shaped channel that can be sized to allow portions of frame assembly structural members 205 and 207 to be inserted within the hinge element 210 as illustrated in the general aspect presented in FIG. 2A.

In general, hinge element 210 can include apertures 214. In one embodiment, the proximal ends of frame assembly structural members 205, 207 can be fastened to the hinge element 210 by extending a fastener 214 through the hinge element 210 and a frame assembly structural member (205, 207), thereby providing a pivotal attachment point, or “pivot point.” Fasteners 214 can include devices that allow pivotal motion of frame assembly structural members within the hinge element 210. Exemplary fasteners 214 include bolts, pins, cotter pins, and rivets. In the case where rivets are used to connect the frame assembly structural member 205, 207 to the hinge element 210, the ends of frame assembly structural member 205, 207 can be pivotally attached to the hinge element 210 by attaching a rivet on each side of the hinge element 210 to one side of a frame assembly structural member 205, 207.

In general, frame assembly structural members (205, 207) can be inserted into the hinge element 210 separated by a distance x as shown in FIG. 2C. This separation between ends of frame assembly structural members can provide pivotal motion of the frame assembly structural member without the ends of one or more frame assembly structural members coming in contact with one another, which could impede or inhibit pivotal motion. The separation also provides a clearance between the ends of the frame assembly structural members 205, 207 relative to each other, the importance of which is discussed below, as well as a separation between the ends of the frame assembly structural members 205, 207 and connecting member 220 (described below) or the bottom face 225 of the hinge element 210.

In general, hinge element 210 can include a connecting member 220. Connecting member 220 is a piece of material that prohibits a frame assembly structural member (e.g., 205 and 207) from rotating beyond a given angle. In some cases, the connecting member 220 is integral, i.e., it is part of, the hinge element 210. Connecting member 220 can, in some instances, provide increased structural strength to the hinge element 210. In addition to increased strength, connecting member 220 provides resistance to bending or crushing of the U-shaped channel, which can hamper or destroy the channel from providing pivotal motion of the frame assembly structural members 205, 207. In some embodiments, connecting member 220 can be lined with a soft material, such as rubber, such that if a frame assembly structural member comes into contact with the connecting member, the potential damage resulting from the contact is reduced.

In some embodiments, the distance between the ends of the frame assembly structural members 205, 207, i.e., the distance x shown in FIG. 2C, is chosen to provide protection of a user's appendages when folding or unfolding the foldable water tank, as described below.

In general, a frame assembly structural member 205, 207, can be pivotally attached to hinge element 210 as shown in FIG. 2C. In one embodiment, each frame assembly structural member can be operated (pivoted) independent of the other. The dashed lines in FIG. 2C illustrate the range of motion of the hinge 200, which, as shown in FIG. 2C is substantially ninety degrees. In other embodiments, the hinge 200 is configured to allow pivotal motion of frame assembly structural members greater than ninety degrees, as described below.

In general, hinge element 210 includes a pivot region 227 where one or more proximal ends of a frame assembly structural member undergoes pivotal motion during folding and unfolding of the tank, e.g., tank 100. The selection of where to locate the one or more pivot points is a factor of the intended purpose of the hinge and design considerations. In some embodiments, it may be beneficial to place the pivot points close to the ends of a hinge element 210, as illustrated in FIG. 2C. In other embodiments, however, the pivot points may be strategically placed to provide the optimal level of protection against pinching foreign objects when a tank is being folded or unfolded. The pivot region 227 in FIG. 2C is bounded in three dimensions by the dashed line indicated on the top structural member and extending down at an angle of ninety degrees at all points to the bottom structural member.

A person operating the hinge (e.g., folding or unfolding a portable water tank 100 comprising hinges 200) is substantially protected from having a body part (i.e., an appendage) pinched during pivotal motion of the frame assembly structural members 205, 207. This is in part because the hinge element 210 covers and essentially surrounds the proximal ends of the frame assembly structural members 205, 207, as they rotate. Added protection from pinching is also provided because the one or more frame assembly structural members 205, 207 are separated by a distance x, as shown in FIG. 2C, that can be chosen to be greater than, for example, an average width of a human hand, or the width of one or more human fingers.

An operator of the hinge 200 can grasp the hinge element 210 in the open position (where the unfolded configuration is indicated by dashed lines) between the frame assembly structural members 205 and 207, and fold the hinge (where the folded configuration is indicated by the solid lines) without having their appendages (e.g., their hand) pinched by frame assembly structural members 205, 207 when it is folded.

In one general aspect, the proximal ends 230 of the frame assembly structural members 205, 207 are substantially contained within the hinge element 210 and separated by a distance x. In these embodiments, the possibility of a user's hand or finger being pinched by the frame assembly structural member ends 230 is reduced when the hinge is opened (illustrated by dashed lines in FIG. 2C and FIG. 3). The length of the hinge element 210 (γ in FIG. 2C) can be chosen to provide appropriate clearance between the ends 230 of the frame assembly structural members 205, 207 when the hinge 200 is in the open position.

In some embodiments, a foldable water tank can have more than four sides and takes the shape of a pentagon, hexagon or higher n-gon shape (n is a Greek prefix number indicating a number of sides, such as “penta” (5 sides) “hexa” (six sides), etc.). Such embodiments may reduce the water pressure received by any one wall in a four-sided foldable water tank as described in FIG. 1, and allow a greater volume of water to be added to the reservoir. As an example, a foldable tank frame may be shaped as a pentagon in an unfolded configuration. In this case, the interior angle between each of the five walls is essentially 108 degrees when viewed from above.

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of a hinge element according to one embodiment. The hinge element 300 provides a pivotal range of motion for frame assembly structural members, e.g., frame assembly structural members 205, 207 from FIGS. 2A-2C, that exceeds ninety degrees. In other words, hinge element 300 provides a foldable water tank 100 allowing unfolded tank configurations that include oblique (i.e., the “inboard side” or the angle facing “in to” the tank) internal angles at the hinge 300 positions.

A hinge element 310 receives a proximal end of a frame assembly structural member 205, 207. The frame assembly structural member is pivotally attached to the channel housing via fastener 214, in a similar fashion to that described with respect to FIGS. 2A-2C, however, as discussed with reference to FIGS. 2A-2C, other configurations for providing pivotal motion of the frame assembly structural members are possible. FIG. 3 shows the hinge element 300 with structural elements 205, 207 in a folded (solid lines) and unfolded (dashed lines) configuration. The channel housing 310 forms an angle θ with respect to faces 325 and 326, which is analogous to face 225 in FIG. 2C. Like the previously-described embodiment for a ninety-degree hinge element 200, the hinge element 300 for an n-gon tank frame can protect body parts and the tank liner 115 from pinching, because the ends of the structural members 205, 207 are contained within hinge element 310 during pivotal motion. The angle θ required to produce a variety of n-gon shaped water tank frames can be calculated using elementary geometry; an n-gon-shaped liner can be constructed by providing liner walls 132 that extend upward from an n-gon shaped liner floor 131. A connecting member 320 protects the shape of the hinge element 310 against bending and pinching of users' apendages, similar to that described for connecting member 220 in FIG. 2B.

Foldable frame assemblies can be constructed with hinges strategically placed along vertical or horizontal frame assembly structural members, allowing the assembly to be folded into a compact form for storage or transport. The protective hinge assemblies disclosed above may significantly reduce the possibility of operator injury and liner damage during folding and unfolding by enclosing the moving parts of the hinge inside a substantially U-shaped channel (i.e., when hinge element 210 is viewed from the side, along its long axis, with connecting member 220 facing up).

Foldable frame assemblies can be used to provide portability for structural assemblies that support fabrics or other assemblies. In many cases, the assembly is designed such that the footprint of the folded assembly is significantly less than that when it is unfolded. The smaller footprint of the folded assembly can be an advantage when storage space for the assembly is limited, or when moving the unfolded assembly would require an inordinate number of personnel or equipment to move it. Such advantages are known in the fire service, particularly in the design of foldable tanks that can be used to deliver fire fighting water to areas that may lack a municipal water supply, like a fire hydrant.

Firefighters are a group that can be particularly susceptible to the dangers of folding assemblies, particularly with respect to portable water tanks. Foldable water tanks can be used in fire fighting operations to provide a source of water for attacking a fire where a municipal water source is not present, or where the municipal source is inadequate for the particular fire. Water tanks can be used in “tanker operations,” whereby a crew sets up a portable water tank, a “pumper” or other fire engine apparatus pumps the water to one or more fire streams, and another apparatus, typically a tanker truck, makes repeated trips to and from the nearest water source, dumping a tank load of water into the portable water tank after each fill.

In most firefighting operations, time is of the essence. Firefighters can be distracted by a multitude of factors, including the fire itself, possible loss of life, and the crowd of fire apparatuses that can be present at a fire scene. The combination of urgency and distraction can easily set the stage for a firefighter accidentally pinching a body part in the hinge area of a portable water tank when folding or unfolding the tank. The hinge assembly disclosed below reduces the possibility of accidental pinching of body parts and the liner of the water tank, allowing firefighters to perform their duties faster, and with less concern over physical injury to themselves or damage to the water tank itself.

A number of embodiments have been described. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the described folding water tank and hinge assemblies. For example, in some embodiments, the liner 115 as illustrated in FIG. 1 is of the type that is self-supporting, and the foldable tank frame provides additional, but supplemental support for the liner, i.e., the foldable frame assembly does not bear the entire burden of supporting the liner walls. Such self-supporting liners can be circular in shape and use floatable retaining rings around the top periphery of the liner to support the walls of the liner.

In some embodiments, the hinge (e.g., hinge 200) may be formed of the same, or different material than that of the structural members of the frame. While the embodiments of the protective hinges above have been discussed within the context of folding a portable water tank horizontally, the vertical frame assembly structural members, e.g., member 110 in FIG. 1A may similarly include hinges, e.g., hinge 200, allowing the tank to be folded in a vertical direction as well as a horizontal direction.

Hinge element 210 can include ancillary mechanisms that lock the structural members in place when the tank is in its folded or unfolded configuration, such as latches, pins, or other devices that inhibit pivotal motion of the frame assembly structural members with respect to the hinge element 210.

In certain embodiments foldable water tanks 100 are modular, i.e., multiple folding water tanks 100 can be connected together to create a “super tank” capable of containing large amounts of water. In one embodiment, the tanks may have separate liners 115, while the structural elements of the tanks 105, 110 are fastened together, yielding greater structural support for the overall super tank. In other embodiments, multiple folding water tank frames are connected together to provide the support structure for one “super liner” that holds large quantities of water. In some embodiments, a fastening member can be used to fasten one or more foldable water tanks together.

Accordingly, other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims.