Jan 15, 2011

Science Scene - New Hook & Ladder

Orville Douglas Denison spent much of his youth sketching out futuristic aircraft, but in retirement he has turned pragmatic. His “aerial fire truck,” a cross between a conveyer belt and a ladder, could help firefighters quickly shuttle victims out of burning buildings.
Denison began studying fire-rescue technology after watching TV coverage of the World Trade Center evacuations on September 11, 2001. Eventually he turned his focus to the ladders often used for smaller buildings. Firemen began deploying telescoping ladders in the 1880s, and they haven’t changed significantly since. “It’s ridiculous to climb up, put someone on your shoulders, and climb down,” Denison says. There had to be a faster way, he thought. So he designed a moving ladder that could be retrofit-ted to trucks to reduce a firefighter’s climbing time by more than half.
In a rescue, firemen could extend Denison’s hydraulic ladder to windows as high as 113 feet. But rather than clamber up the ladder, the firefighter would hop on, and the rungs would roll up at 200 feet per minute—more than twice the average climbing speed of a firefighter weighed down by 130 pounds of gear. The firefighter would ride to a window, load unconscious victims into a rescue bag, hook the bag to the ladder, and shift it into reverse to bring the person to safety. Denison says it can now take up to 15 minutes, and sometimes several men, to carry one victim down a ladder from 10 stories. He estimates that his ladder could lower four people to the ground in less than four minutes.
I love seeing practical solutions to real world problems, must be the geek in me :o)



  1. over a hundred and thiry years with basically the same technology! Brings truth to the statement, 'Don't mess with perfection, we have always done it this way!'

    Don't you love the thinking, 'There must be a better way.' ??

    That is what gets us to the next step.


  2. Wow ... this makes me wonder why nobody thought of this before!

  3. Great idea. I think it's just the beginning of other high tech devises for saving people. The next step would be a two sided ladder, up and down at the same location, like an escalator, sending more bags and fire fighters back up as survivors are going dowm.

  4. It is amazing that 'well duh' applications like this still pop up routinely. Thanks for the point-out; I;d missed it entirely.

  5. I missed this one ken. Sometime it pays to revisit the re-engineering of the wheel.


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