People trapped in burning tall buildings could soon have a new means of escape with the launch of the Evacuator, a set of steel cable reels that allow evacuees to slowly and safely descend to the ground down the outside of the building.
The Evacuator was designed by two Dutch inventors, Eugene Verstegen and Joris Veeger, who came up with the idea when they saw people fall to their death from the Twin Towers in New York following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. The two men reasoned that if people are expected to live or work at such heights, they must be able to get out at all times.
In conjunction with a professional engineering company, they developed a fireproof steel winch, guaranteed to work at all times even when electricity is down. The device allows four people (or a combined weight of 254kg) to simultaneously descend 50, 140 or 300 metres, connected to a safety harness on a steel cable, at a speed of one metre per second.
The device is fully mechanised and not dependent on electrical power or any other utility. The Evacuator is intended as a person’s last resort if the elevators of the building have been switched off, the emergency exits are filled with smoke and firemen can't reach them. The Evacuator has been awarded the EN341 safety certification for 33 European countries.
“What the airbag is for cars, the Evacuator is for tall buildings. With this technology we can save lives in 99 per cent of all tall buildings in the world," Verstegen said.
The Evacuator will be presented at the International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference at the University of Greenwich in London, 17-20 June. The Discovery Channel is also making a documentary about the Evacuator, to be broadcast later this year.
The Evacuator inventors were invited to the London conference by host professor Ed Galea, founding director of the Fire Safety Engineering Group (FSEG) at the University of Greenwich. “After we had shown him the Evacuator, he got so excited that he invited us to come demonstrate the device," Verstegen said.