The design and development of a personal evacuation device

  • Stephen Griffiths

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    In September 2001, a terrorist attack on the World trade centre in New York (USA) provided graphic images, of people trapped and jumping to almost certain death, via news media to a watching world. The aftermath of such an event was to focus not only on the anti terrorism aspect but also the ways that should an event occur again, even if not terrorist related, measures were in place to evacuate buildings by a safe means of exit. In the conferences held after the event attention was drawn to an aspect of height safety and rescue that had previously and also until today received little research.

    This thesis outlines the work carried out as a research programme which explores possible design solutions to be applied for developing a personal evacuation device. Focus is on single and multiple evacuation designs in order that occupants can be safely evacuated from heights up to 200 m from high rise buildings on land and oil production platforms offshore. In particular the report deals with the design and development of an evacuation device using controlled descent technology. A literature review is provided focussing on high profile incidents and accident statistics with respect to evacuation. International Standards and test procedures and how they are applied are also discussed, together with technical and physical trends that are being adopted. The literature review is followed by further background information and discussion of the potential application for evacuation devices. Alternative technologies are considered and evaluated. These include hydraulic and friction braking systems.

    In addition the work comprises the development, prototyping and testing of a number of new and different designs. An evaluation and determination of compactness together with sewn lifeline technology is carried out and test rigs are developed in order to validate the designs to the current standards of personal protective equipment.

    The study not only considers the design and evaluation of the device but also the lifeline used to connect the mass to the device. The aim is to reduce lifeline volume and provide a compact solution to accommodate descents in excess of 50 m. To achieve this, webbing and rope terminations have been developed with material selection and sewing patterns providing design solutions.

    The research concludes by summarising the mechanical function against descent speed for various masses. There is a review of several novel design solutions that meet the international requirements for personal evacuation. The provision of information that furthers knowledge and understanding in descent and evacuation.
    Date of Award2011
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University


    • evacuation
    • descenders
    • brakes
    • rescue
    • dynamics
    • testing
    • escape

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