There would be few scarier places to be in the event of a fire than in a high-rise building with no means of escape. Tragedies such as the World Trade Center disaster have highlighted the vulnerability of the building’s core and emergency stairwell as the only venue for evacuation. We've seen some last resort options that cater for those individuals brave enough to rappel or even parachute from the building, but that's still only part of the equation. When escape routes are compromised it not only prevents evacuation, but also prevents emergency personnel reaching the trouble spots. Escape Rescue Systems' solution is to use collapsible cabins which can be lowered over the side of the building to transport rescue personnel up... and evacuate building occupants down.

The Rescue System is an array of five collapsible cabins that are permanently stored on the roof of a building in a folded position. In the event of an emergency the cabin array is lowered to the ground where it unfolds to let emergency responders board the cabins. It then travels upwards, stopping opposite five elevated floors simultaneously to allow the responders to disembark through specially configured windows. Up to 150 evacuees can then be loaded into the cabins and then lowered to the ground. The system then repeats the cycle, transporting responders up and into the building and evacuating tenants as required.

Escape Rescue Systems says the system is effective for all building heights and is suitable for all ages and physical conditions of evacuees, including disabled people thanks to the specially configured exit windows that come equipped with fold-out boarding ramps to accommodate wheelchairs.

The system includes the rooftop elements – storing and deploying mechanism, drive system, cabin array, independent power source – the command and control mechanisms that are remote controlled from the ground, configured windows on each floor, and window stabilization mechanisms.

Aside from the standard five cabin arrays, the company also offers a “Lite” version comprising two solid cabins that fold into each other in a “nesting array configuration.” This systems is lighter and more compact that the standard system, requiring less space for installation and storage, making it suitable for residential buildings and lower capacity commercial sites.

Escape Rescue Systems installed the first prototype system on a 21 story building in July 2004 and it has been approved for safety by the German Laboratory TUV. In October 2005 Escape was awarded a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Designation as a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology (QATT) under the SAFETY act.

The development of the system also led to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) developing standards for high-rise building external evacuation devices and systems. The Escape Rescue System is the only platform solution to comply with ASTM Standard E 2513 for Multi-Story Building External Evacuation Platform Rescue Systems.

The video below shows how the system can also be used to provide S.W.A.T. or other law enforcement forces access to a building when other accesses are compromised.

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