Sliding to safety

Updated: 2013-04-24 14:13

By Wu Ni (China Daily)

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Sliding to safety

Retired Shanghai machinist Zhou Miaorong demonstrates his invention of a rapid evacuation slide that makes escaping a burning high-rise safer and faster. [Photo by Wu Ni/China Daily]

A retired machinist has invented a slide that will allow people living in high-rises a faster, safer way to escape from a burning building. Wu Ni reports from Shanghai.

Zhou Miaorong, a retired Shanghai machinist, has invented a rapid evacuation slide that will make escaping a burning high-rise safer and faster.

During a fire, residents in a tall building can lie in the chute and slide to the building's exit at a much faster speed than walking down, Zhou says.

"It needs only two to three seconds to slide down one story," says the 70-year-old inventor.

Sliding to safety

To test its effectiveness, the slide has been installed in the five-story building of Gumei Investment Service Center in the Minhang district of Shanghai.

The stainless steel chute, when not in use, is closely attached to the banister of stairs, so as not to restrict use of the stairs.

With the press of a button, Zhou activates the mechanical system that emits a thunderous sound. The slide is made up of several straight troughs and bends, connected together.

Lying on the chute, Zhou folds his arms, positions his legs and slides down cautiously. He takes about 15 seconds to slide from the fifth to the first floor.

"The sliding process is a fast-slow-fast pattern. You gain acceleration in the straight chute, and the speed is counteracted at the bend, so you won't slide too fast, which would be dangerous," Zhou explains.

The gradient of the bends, he adds, is also carefully designed so that people won't be flung about when they slide on the bends.

Zhou, a machinist who had worked in the Shanghai Gardening Tools Factory, took more than two years to design and build the mechanical slide. It runs based on the theory of domino effect and does not require electricity.

"I started to think about ways of escaping from burning high-rises after the devastating fire in 2010," Zhou says.

Fifty-eight people were killed in the fire that destroyed a 29-story residential building on Jiaozhou road in Jing'an district of Shanghai on Nov 15, 2010, the worst in the city in decades.

Zhou, who lives on the 35th floor of a building, says he started work on the slide after studying many high-rise fires.

"The elevator is a forbidden area in a fire. And walking down from the stairs is dangerous because there will be too many people and too much smoke, which explains why stampedes and choking cause most casualties.

"So, how to quicken the process of getting to safety? My answer: Lie down and slide," he says.

Sliding to safety

Sliding to safety

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