Title:
Shelter for protecting installers of fiber optic cable
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An integrated, foldable shelter for protecting a worker engaged in installing fiber optic connections on the exterior of a house or other structure comprising two foldable sides that are joined directly to one another at one point of a triangular-shaped roof of the shelter at one end to form an inverted “V” shape cross-section and the sides being indirectly joined at opposite corners of the roof at the other end of the shelter to form a generally trapezoidal (e.g., rectangular) cross-section at that end. The end with the trapezoidal cross-section has a retractable, i.e., rollup, door that can be opened when placed against the wall of the structure adjacent the working area, thereby enabling the worker to access the working area on the exterior wall of the structure while providing protection against the elements.



Inventors:
Pelsue, Bradley A. (Denver, CO, US)
Application Number:
12/286624
Publication Date:
04/02/2009
Filing Date:
10/01/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
135/128
International Classes:
E04H15/02; E04H15/36; E04H15/44
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HAWK, NOAH CHANDLER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Thomas H. Young, Esq. (Greenwood Village, CO, US)
Claims:
1. An integrated, foldable shelter for protecting an individual from an outdoor environment while accessing a work area located on an vertical exterior wall of a building comprising: two rectangular sides each of which has a frame comprising struts each of which is attached at one end to a hub, the struts supporting an appropriate fabric to shield the individual from weather and a foldable triangular roof, the top corners of the foldable sides being joined directly to an apex of the triangular shaped roof and other two top corners of the foldable sides being attached at the respective base corners of the triangular shaped roof, the resulting shelter structure having an inverted “V”-shape cross-section at one end of the shelter, and a generally trapezoidal cross-section at the other end of the shelter with a flat surface so that it can directly rest against and parallel the vertical exterior wall of the building thereby protecting both the individual and the work area.

Description:

I. CLAIM OF PRIORITY

This application claims the benefit of priority from U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 60/997,155 filed on Oct. 1, 2007, for “Shelter for Protecting Installers of Fiber Optic Cable.”

II. FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to the field of shelters for workers, e.g., installers of fiber optic cables and connections in an outdoor environment. In particular, the invention relates to an integral device that can be folded and easily moved to a job site where it can be erected into a stable structure especially suited for its intended use.

III. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Providing shelter for workers in outdoor environments has been a problem for many years. Harsh weather conditions including, wind, rain, snow, hail, and even brilliant sun can cause workers to be inefficient, and in some cases ineffective, in accomplishing the tasks at hand. Inclement weather can result in postponement or delays in initiating or completing projects. Even if the tasks can be accomplished in some manner, exposure to harsh weather can implicate employee health and absenteeism. Employees appropriately protected from harsh weather conditions work more efficiently and would be expected to have higher job satisfaction and long term retention.

Providing an acceptable shelter for outdoor workers is not easy. Moving and erecting the shelter should not significantly add to the worker's physical tasks or significantly extend the time required to do the job. Indeed, if it takes too much time and effort to erect the shelter, the worker may already be saturated by rain or snow before he/she can begin to do the assigned task thereby defeating the purpose of having the shelter in the first instance. The same problem can occur if the shelter is not stable and requires constant attention while the worker is trying to do his/her task. The design of the shelter also depends on the nature and location of the work activity. In some activities, e.g., where a worker must move frequently from one spot to another, a shelter is not very much help. In other activities, e.g., installation of traditional telephone or cable service at a residential location, the worker is outdoors such a brief period of time that deployment of a shelter is impractical and/or unnecessary.

Unlike telephone or cable services, installers of fiber optic connections to residences have enhanced needs for outdoor protection. These installers frequently need a large amount of time, e.g., one or more hours, outdoors to complete their work at a particular site. This is so, because the fiber optic conduit is used for a number of connections, e.g., voice communications and/or high-speed computer connections, each of which requires outdoor service for installation and “tuning.” Thus, the worker may be required to spend considerable time outside to ensure that all devices are connected in an optimum fashion. It is relatively common for such an installer to spend several hours or more in achieving this result.

A typical “connecting box” is mounted on the exterior wall of a residence or other building. Usually, the connecting box is about 8″ by 10″ and extends outward about 4″ from the building and holds all of the connectors for the fiber optic connections. To protect a worker and the work area a shelter should directly rest against the wall of the building. In addition, the boxes where the fiber optic work is performed are frequently located on an outside wall in a less evident location where there often is little surrounding space due to neighboring structures, garages, property line fences, etc. In many instances there are no eves above the box where the work is being performed. Where eaves are present above the box, they frequently perform little protection from the elements and in some cases focus and exacerbate the falling of water or other precipitation on the worker.

While worker comfort, health and productivity are important, it is equally or more important to protect the electronics inside the connection box when the box is opened to be worked on. There is an ever increasing trend to use delicate electronic devices in remote and environmentally exposed locations. While the box housing these electronics normally provides some protection, that protection is lost when the box is opened for instillation, maintenance or repairs to the electronics particularly in inclement weather. And while exposure to the elements may not immediately cause damage, it may have an insidious effect on the electronics over time. Thus, it is highly important to shelter the electronic boxes or enclosures even prior to opening them and exposing their contents to inclement weather.

Typical four-sided structures used for “outside plant” shelters are too large and cumbersome for many of these applications. (See, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,810,482 and 3,968,809.) Structures with fewer sides are inherently less stable, and two sided tents with an inverted “V” configuration can be the least stable. (See, for example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,941,140, 4,077,417, and 4,941,499.) The inverted “V” shape also does not provide a sufficient opening adjacent the typical connection box where the optical fiber installation occurs. Many of these structures cannot be placed directly against an outside wall of a residence in a manner that would protect both the worker and the fiber optic connecting box or other work area.

Accordingly there is a need for a simple portable device that is small enough to fit adjacent a typical fiber optic connecting box but allows sufficient working area adjacent the box for installing the optical connections. It should be easily portable, provide protection from the weather, and yet provide sufficient light and ventilation for the worker.

IV. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an integrated, foldable shelter for protecting one or more workers engaged in installing fiber optic connections on the exterior of a house, condominium or other structure. The shelter is comprised of two foldable sides that are joined directly to one another along the roof of the shelter at one end to form an inverted “V” shape cross-section and are indirectly joined at opposite sides of the roof at the other end of the shelter to form a generally rectangular (or perhaps more accurately, “trapezoidal”) cross-section at that end. The end with the rectangular or trapezoidal cross-section (referred to herein as the “front” of the shelter) has a retractable, i.e., roll-up, door that can be opened. When the shelter is placed against the wall of the structure adjacent the working area, the opened end of the shelter provides a large working area adjacent the exterior wall or other structure supporting the connecting box. The end of the shelter where the sides are joined to form an inverted “V” shape cross-section (referred to herein as the “back” of the shelter) has a smaller opening sufficient to enable workers and materials to enter the shelter, but to provide protection against the elements.

V. Brief Description of the Drawings

The present invention may be more readily described by reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is an overall perspective view of one embodiment of the shelter showing the front, side and interior.

FIG. 2 is a view of the “back” of the shelter.

FIG. 3 is a view of the “front” of the shelter.

FIG. 4 is an exterior view of the top, i.e., “roof” of the shelter.

FIG. 5 is another perspective view of the shelter illustrating it in position against an exterior wall, i.e., work area.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the shelter as shown in FIG. 1, except that the weather covering on the right side window is now rolled up.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view showing the interior of one side wall of the shelter.

FIG. 8 is a view showing the interior of the roof of the shelter.

FIG. 9 is a view showing one embodiment of an adjustable leg of the shelter as attached at the base of one of the side wall struts.

FIG. 10 is a view of the shelter in folded position for possible transport and/or storage.

For convenience and ease of understanding common elements have common reference numerals on all the drawings. All of the various components are numbered in the drawings where they are best depicted and understood. However, to avoid confusion from crowded reference numbers, not every component is marked on each drawing.

VI. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION AND CERTAIN PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The invention is now described with reference to certain preferred embodiments as depicted in the drawings and described herein.

FIGS. 1 through 6 depict one embodiment of the shelter 1 of the present invention in an erected and assembled condition. As illustrated in these figures, the shelter 1 has a front portion 2 with a door 45 (FIGS. 1 and 3) and a rear portion or back 3 with a rear door 66a and 66b (FIGS. 2 and 5). As viewed from the front, shelter 1 comprises a left side panel 4 and a right side panel 5 and a top or roof 6.

As depicted in FIG. 4, the top 6 has a triangular shape with one corner of the triangle 20 being located above the rear of the shelter 3 and the base 24 of the triangle between corners 21 and 22 being positioned above the front of the shelter 2.

As mentioned previously, the sides of the shelter are closely joined at the corner 20 along the roof of the shelter at the back or rear of the shelter. Thus, the rear of the shelter has an inverted “V” shape cross-section as defined by the corner 20 at the top and the left and right side panels 3 and 4. (FIG. 2). The sides of the inverted “V” have a slight outwardly sloping curve to them caused by the bowing of the sides in their locked position as described herein. At the front of the shelter the left and right sides 4 and 5 of the shelter are joined with the roof at corners 21 and 22 on opposite sides of the roof base 24 of the roof. Thus, the front of the shelter has a generally rectangular or trapezoidal cross-section as defined by the base 24 along the roof and downwardly directed sidewalls 4 and 5 (FIG. 3). Again, the sidewalls have a light outwardly sloping curve to them for the reasons mentioned previously. As a result, the opening 40 of the front 2 can also be rectangularly shaped. FIG. 1 depicts a view of the right side of the shelter 5 and its attachment to the triangular roof at the back 3 and front 2 of the shelter. The shelter fabric 80R at the top of side 5 is also adjoined along the length of side 26 of the triangularly shaped roof. The arrangement of parts is mirrored on the other side of the shelter.

The relationship of the sides 4 and 5 with the triangularly shaped top 6 provides a shelter particular suited for the purpose of enabling work to be efficiently performed at a work site on the exterior wall of a building. Among other things, the shelter is stable, particularly when compared with tents having a uniform cross-section in the shape of an inverted “V.” This stability can be maintained even though the shelter can be sized to fit in very narrow openings adjacent buildings, i.e., situations where the shelter must have a relatively small “footprint.” In addition, the front of the shelter has a wide opening for easily accessing the work area on the exterior wall of the building. The broad width of the front opening 40 along the base 24 of the roof surface provides both horizontal and vertical space for a worker to freely access the work area without undue stooping and without lateral restriction by the sides of the shelter. The generally flat vertical front of the shelter also enables the shelter to be brought close to and flush with the exterior wall of the building thereby providing shelter for the delicate electronics when the connection box is opened an restricting the access of wind and precipitation into the interior of the structure and onto the worker or the work area.

Further benefits are apparent from the following description and the accompanying drawings which provide a more detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the front of the shelter 2 and right side 5 including the conjunction with the roof 6 along roof line 26. The front of the shelter includes opening 40 framed by fabric panels 41a and 41b. As shown in this drawing, door 45 can be rolled up above the opening and secured in place by straps 46. Panels 41a and 41b are made of appropriate weather resistant materials and are intended to restrict the ingress of wind, rain and snow into the shelter. Nevertheless, the opening is still quite large for access to the work area. FIG. 1 also illustrates the outside of the right sidewall 5 and (through the open door) part of the inside of the left sidewall 4, both as described later.

FIG. 3 is a drawing of the front of the shelter with the door in the closed condition, i.e., covering the opening. The door and side panels have a series of mating snaps 47 on each side that can be used to firmly secure the door to the panels when closed. Snaps 48 located on the side of the shelter as shown in FIG. 1 may be used to help secure the side panels out of the way of the work area, as shown, for example, in FIG. 5. The door 45 is attached to the front or roof of the shelter and can be rolled up as previously noted. The rectangular door area 40 is then open. This is the portion of the shelter that would be placed against the wall containing the connection box. As can be envisioned from the drawing, there is plenty of room for a worker to stand and work inside the tent regardless of the height at which the cable connecting box (or other work area) is mounted on the exterior of the building.

Similarly, FIG. 2 depicts one embodiment of the rear or back of the shelter showing the triangular shaped door covering the inverted “V” shaped opening described previously. The door in this embodiment consists of two triangular pieces of fabric 66a and 66b which are mounted in mirrored juxtaposition to each of the sides and releasably connected to one another by mating snaps 67 in the middle. When the doors are secured to one another, they provide additional structural stability to the shelter. When the snaps are released, the two sides of the door 66a and 66b can be moved away from one another to form an opening. Snaps 68 or other attachments, e.g., Velcro®, can be used to secure the door in the open position. The worker along with tools and materials can move in and out of the shelter through the rear door when the front of the shelter is positioned adjacent the wall on which the connection box is mounted. Obviously, the rear door can be deployed in several arrangements. For example, both parts of the door can be open and secured, both doors can be closed and unsnapped, or both doors can be closed and snapped together as shown in FIG. 5. Alternatively, one portion of the door can be open and secured and the other can be in the closed position. The arrangement of the doors can be selected depending on the tasks being performed, the need for additional stability and protection from the weather.

FIGS. 1-3, 5 and 6 also illustrate the general configuration of the sides 4 and 5 of the shelter. The exterior of each side is generally formed of an appropriate weather resistant fabric or material 80R and 80L. In the embodiment depicted in these drawings, each side has a window formed of mesh material 82R and 82L sewn into the side of the shelter. The mesh permits light and air to enter the shelter freely. The mesh openings are covered by respective rain flaps 83R and 83L. In FIG. 1, the rain flap is closed. In FIG. 6, the rain flap has been rolled up and secured at the top by Velcro® strips 84L. Obviously, the rain flaps can be deployed in an appropriate manner depending on weather conditions and the need for light to enter the shelter.

The drawings also show a lower flap or gutter extending outward from the shelter along the ground to act as a rain gutter to direct moisture away from the shelter. This flap can be deployed horizontally outside the shelter 1 when the shelter is erected to prevent moisture from running down the side of the shelter and into the shelter through the bottom. The flap also keeps out dust and debris on dry days. Alternatively, the flaps can be rolled up against the shelter and secured to the shelter by straps or snaps. The drawings show these flaps 81R and 81L on the left and right sides of the shelter and 69 on the rear of the shelter. The flaps can also be used to anchor against weather by putting heavy objects on them and can be used during “set up” by turning it under and stepping it while pushing outwardly on the frame

Preferably the front of the shelter does not have a flap or gutter of this type, since it cannot be properly deployed when the front of the shelter 2 is brought into contact with the exterior wall at which work is being performed as shown in FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 shows the structure of one of the side walls, in this case left side wall 4. The side wall consists of a hub 100L and four struts 101L, 102L, 103L and 104L one end of which is rotatably mounted in the hub and extends radially outward from the hub. The other end of each strut is connected to one corner of the fabric on the side wall. In the erected condition the hub is beyond the center point formed when the hub and four struts are in the same plane. The tension formed by the relationship of the fabric, struts and hub “locks” the hub into this erected condition. The construction of the sidewalls and hubs and the materials employed are known to one skilled in the art from commercial structures having different shelter configurations which have been manufactured and sold by T.A. Pelsue Company of Denver, Colo. and from published Pelsue patents, such as those referenced previously which are incorporated by reference herein.

FIG. 8 is a drawing of the inside of the shelter looking upward toward the triangularly shaped roof of the shelter. The corner 20 indicates the location of the back of the shelter. Corners 21 and 22 define the “base” 24 of the roof. The roof fabric covering is indicated at 25. (See also FIG. 4) As shown in FIG. 4, the edge of the roof fabric can be reinforced along the perimeter for attachment of the fabric from the back 3 and from side panels 4 and 5. The roof 6 has a construction similar to the sides. This includes a hub 120 and three struts 121, 122, and 123. Each of the struts extends outward from the hub120 and the far end of each is inserted inside a tubularly shaped reinforced fabric pocket which is part of reinforcement or “patch” attached to the roof. The far end of strut 121 is inserted into pocket 124 of patch 125 at corner 20. The far end of strut 102L is also inserted into pocket 126 on patch 125, thus forming a strong but pivotal connection of right side 4 at corner 20. Similarly, the right panel 5 is also pivotally connected at corner 20 as depicted in the drawing.

Similarly, roof strut 123 is attached in pocket 130 of patch 131 at corner 21, and roof strut 122 is attached in pocket 132 of patch 133 at corner 22. Strut 101L, which is part left side panel 4, is also attached at corner 21 by insertion into tubular pocket 105 of patch 106. Thus left side panel 4 and roof 6 have a strong, but pivotal connection at corner 21. The same arrangement is followed with respect to right side panel 5 at corner 22.

The connections of the left side panel 4 and the roof 6 vis-à-vis the attachment of their respective struts into pockets in reinforced patches adjacent roof corners 21 and 20 are also illustrate in the top portion of FIG. 7.

FIG. 7 also illustrates that the distal end of lower strut 103L is similarly positioned in pocket 109 on patch 120 at the front of the tent, and the distal end of lower strut 104L is positioned in tubular pocket 111 on patch 112 at the rear of the tent. Thus, ends of struts 103L and 104L effectively form feet on which the shelter rests on the ground. The right side 5 of the tent is similarly constructed.

In an alternative embodiment of the roof 6, a fourth strut may be removably connected to the hub 120 for insertion into the hub and into a pocket on the front 2 of the shelter above the door opening 40 after the shelter has been erected. This provides addition stability and “head room” above the opening while work is being performed.

FIG. 5 illustrates the fully erected shelter in position for use. The front of the shelter with opening 40 is placed against a wall 140, i.e., work area, on which a fiber optic connecting box or other work area (not illustrated) is located. Door 45 (hidden on the drawing by other portions of the structure) is rolled up and affixed to the top of the front of the shelter. One or both panels 41a and 41b can also be turned away from the front of the shelter and secured in position to the sides of the tent. FIG. 5 illustrates that panel 41b is folded away from the front of the tent and secured to right side 5 by snap 48. This improves access to the work area. In addition the rolled door and panels operate to form a buffer around the top and sides of the front opening to deter the entrance of wind and precipitation. When the shelter is erected, the worker can enter and tools and materials can be brought through the doors 66a and 66b at the rear of the shelter. With the front door open, the worker has direct and full access to the connection box where work can be performed.

The shelter of the present invention can be folded for movement and transportation between job sites. To accomplish this, the hub on each of the sides is pushed over the center position (i.e., where the hub and all four struts are in the same plane) toward the inside of the shelter. This inward movement is continued until all four struts are parallel to one another and perpendicular to the hub. The same procedure is employed with the roof of the shelter, i.e., the hub is pushed inward over the center position until all three struts are parallel to one another. The sides and top along with the attached fabric of the shelter can then be folded and tied or otherwise fixed in position and/or placed in a carrier to be transported to the next site. All of these steps can be accomplished by a single individual, since the shelter is light weight and of integral construction, i.e., the shelter is essentially one piece with all of the various parts being connected together.

FIG. 10 shows the shelter in a folded configuration, emphasizing the unitary construction. The hubs 100R and 100L for the right and left sides are adjacent to one another with the four struts for each of them all extending outwardly and parallel to one another, so that the folded shelter forms a long bundle with a length essentially the same as that of a side wall strut. The top hub and struts are folded in a similar manner to with the three struts extending parallel to one another outward from the hub, all of which are obscured in the drawing by the shelter coverings. Various means can be employed to tightly wrap the bundle for convenient storage and handling. The bundle can also be place in a long bag with appropriate handles or straps.

When the shelter has been moved to the next work site, it is removed from the carrier and/or untied so that the parts can move freely with respect to one another. Preferably, the shelter package is moved adjacent to or near the connection box that will be worked on. The hub on each of the sides is moved relative to the struts so that it passes “over center” relative to the struts (i.e., a position where all the struts and the hub are in the same plane) to a position where hub locks into place. Pull cords such as 141R (FIG. 6) can be provided on the exterior of the hubs to assist in their outward movement over center to the locked position. The same procedure is performed on the top. When both sides and the top have been erected, the shelter is in a stable mode. The erected shelter can then be moved directly adjacent the wall of the building containing the construction box.

In a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the shelter is constructed so that it is slightly tilted from the rear to the front of the shelter so that the front of the shelter rests slightly against the wall of the building and does not just stand adjacent to it. This is helpful in preventing moisture or rain from leaking between a gap between the shelter and the wall onto the connection box and the work area. This “lean” can also be accomplished by the lengthening or adjusting the struts on the sides or the use of adjustable feet on the struts to cause the proper amount of “lean” relative to the building and the surrounding horizontal surface, i.e., alley, lawn, patio, driveway, etc. The use of adjustable means is preferred because the relationship between the wall and the horizontal surface may vary from site to site.

Typically, the adjustable feet are located on the lower ends of the struts on the entrance to the shelter, i.e., the rear of the shelter away from the work area. One embodiment for having adjustable feet is shown in FIG. 9, which depicts an adjustable foot assembly 150 located on the lower end of one of the struts 104L on the left side panel adjacent the bottom of rear door panel 66b portions of which are illustrated by dashed lines in FIG. 9 to orient the position of the adjustable foot assembly relative to the shelter. The assembly can be composed, for example, of a machined aluminum block 151 that bolts to the strut 104L of the shelter by bolts 152. The block is appropriately sized for passage of leg extension 154L so that it can move upward or downward in the block relative to the ground surface. In one embodiment, the leg extension is 12 inch long ¾ inch fiberglass rod with a rubber crutch tip 155 and 156 at each end of the rod to provide traction with the ground surface and to avoid injury. A cast aluminum clamping knob 157 threaded into the machined aluminum block contacts the fiberglass rod within the aluminum block thereby clamping it into position. By loosening the clamping knob, the fiberglass rod can be moved upward or downward in the block so that the length of the rod extending below the distal end of strut 104L can be increased or decreased as desired. Extension of the feet will effectively “push” the working end of the shelter up against the wall where the connection box is located. This feature is especially useful in cases where there is an increased pitch or grade away from the building or exterior wall for drainage and in situations where the bottom ends of struts 104L and 104R (e.g., FIG. 2) contact ground surfaces of uneven depth. Thus, the adjustable feet can compensate for lateral unevenness of the ground surface as well as front-to-back unevenness. (FIG. 5)

Alternative systems for providing adjustable feet can be employed, for example, a threaded leg extension can be screwed inside the foot of the strut 104L. Turning the leg extension in one direction or the other will result in the appropriate lengthening or shortening of the leg for purposes of the surface conditions.

In addition, an eave or gutter can be employed along the roof on the front of the shelter to serve as an additional barrier to moisture entry. The front door may serve that purpose when it is rolled up to a position along the roof and above the front of the shelter. Other flaps or gutters can be deployed to serve this purpose.

The embodiment depicted in the drawings is intended to provide maximum access to the work area as shown in FIG. 5. An alternative approach is to provide a flat fabric wall on the front of the shelter that has a slit, cut-out or other aperture to access the work area. Some may prefer this approach as an alternative to having a rolled up door 45 and rolled back panels 41a and 41b to provide the opening. Alternatively, the roll up door 45 may have a slot large enough to accommodate the cable or connection box and to keep it out of the weather. The slot may also have Velcro to create a seal tightly around the box. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. One of the significant unexpected advantages, however, of using a slot either in a solid fabric front wall or in a rolled up door, is that stability is added, particularly when the slot is secured around the connection box or housing.

While the shelter has been described in relation to the particular problems associated with fiber optic installation, it may be used in a number of other environments, e.g., for a worker employed in installing, maintaining or repairing an ATM machine or even a customer using such a device.





 
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