Imagine being in a high-rise on fire, with the escape route through the stairwell blocked. It’s a terrifying thought. The Torch Tower in Dubai, one of the world’s tallest residential buildings, was ablaze last week, though luckily things turned out for the best as the fire was quickly extinguished. The fire earlier this year at Grenfell Tower in London was a different story – many residents of higher floors could not be saved. The fire department’s standard ladders are only 23 meters (75 feet) tall.
Skylotec, a German family-owned firm, thinks it has a solution that may have saved some of those people in the London fire. Already the world market leader for professional safety equipment, Skylotec is introducing a self-rescue kit that would enable even unskilled climbers to rappel down from their apartments – without help from anyone else.
The evacuation device, called the Deus Exit Kit, includes a rescue jacket that is attached to a non-flammable 50-meter rope, long enough for about a 16-story building. The other end is secured in the apartment, possibly to a load-bearing beam. The unique aspect of the device is that it has an integrated centrifugal brake, which prevents the person and the rope from traveling downward faster than one to two meters per second.
The new kit is not designed to replace the fire department. “The device is a last resort,” said Kai Rinklake, the 45-year-old managing director of Skylotec. The illustrated instruction manual describes how it works in simple terms. Users can’t do anything wrong, said Mr. Rinklake, “not even if they panic.”
The German Fire Services Association isn’t so sure. It is “unrealistic to expect a person to rappel out of a burning high-rise building,” a spokesperson said. They argued that people simply do not act rationally in such extreme situations and are therefore likely to make mistakes, even if the evacuation equipment is easy to use. Mr. Rinklake and the Fire Services Association agree on one thing: Both would prefer not to see the device actually have to be used.