The ideal solution
Ideally, each person living or working in a high-rise building should have access to a descender that he can effectively use when no other means of egress is available. Such a descender should be simple enough so that it can be used by an inexperienced person, even a child. Since escaping through the stairway is the first choice, it should be possible to take the descender along when going to a refuge area or leaving the building. If it turns out that the stairs are free, the descender will not be used. However, if there is a blockage, the person can look for the nearest egress point and use it for his escape.
In addition to descending at a safe rate of speed, the user should be able to adjust this speed to specific circumstances. For example, he would want to slow down if he approaches a protruding balcony or other structural obstacle. In the case of building setbacks, he should be able to stop, walk over to the edge of the next level and continue his descent. Finally, since one would not expect that heavy people descend at the same speed as light ones, there should be a simple adjustment to account for this difference.
Can all of this be done? A team of experienced engineers and managers formerly associated with the consulting firm Arthur D. Little, Inc. undertook this challenge after 9/11. They came up with a unique solution that passed all the requirements and tests set for it. A patent application for the product was filed under the name EasyDown(TM).
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