How Does a Fire Escape Chute Work?

It’s true what they say about emergencies. They almost always come unannounced, which is why preparing for them is of crucial importance. When the emergency is a fire getting ready to engulf everything around it, there’s no time to think.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, preparing for a fire includes an alarm system, the means to exit a building safely, and knowledge of exit routes and how to use them.

This is where a fire escape chute becomes essential.  So how does a fire escape chute work?

What Is a Fire Escape Chute?

Fire escape chutes provide free passage to anyone looking to escape a blaze. They are mostly used where mass evacuations from high-rise buildings are in order. While recommended, you shouldn’t use elevators in the event of a fire and stairways. These routes can be impenetrable, depending on the intensity of the flames. 

Fire escape chutes are the most effective way to get to safety. Seeing as a fire waits for no one, fire escape chutes have a vertical design to ensure a quick, safe exit.

These chutes are mostly made of fabric like Kevlar, although some versions are metallic. They are often found at special exits on one of the top floors of buildings and apartments. 

In case a fire breaks out, the chute falls, and firemen hold on to the loose end. This is all done very quickly, and evacuees can then simply enter the chute and slide down to safety. Chutes made of cloth are much better than their metallic counterparts because they make for simple storage, easy usage, and better monitoring during evacuation.

Single-Entry Fire Escape Chutes

Offices, buildings, or homes that are not equipped with vacant shafts or ducts are best suited to use the single-entry fire escape chute. Installment is easy; galleries, windows, and terraces are all used for the purpose.

Building Fire Escape

Such chutes have three layers. The outermost one serves to protect from the fire itself, whereas the middle layer helps control speed. The third, innermost layer carries the weight of the entire chute. All in all, this chute guarantees protection to those attempting to escape unscathed.

What’s more is that this chute can also ensure the safe evacuation of older, injured, and unconscious people.

Multi-Entry Fire Escape Chutes

Medium and/or high-rise establishments use multi-entry fire escape chutes. These chutes accompany each floor of the building in question, allowing multiple individuals to enter it and get to ground level.

The multiple-entry fire escape chute is different from the single-entry variant in that it features a hard, vertical shaft or enclosure that drops to the ground. This offers added protection to those escaping a fire. The interior comprises two layers; the outer one helps control speed, while the other bears the chute’s weight.

As a chute caters to multiple floors, there is a segment on each level. For someone standing outside the building, it looks like a single vertical structure. This kind of accessibility comes with the guarantee to save as many lives as possible.

Unlike the single-entry chute system, the multi-entry chutes require separate shafts and/or ducts. Buildings that house ten floors need a shaft that is 4 ft. x 4 ft. Those with more than ten levels require a shaft that is 4 ft. x 8 ft. This is usually why a plan for a duct is best incorporated earlier on in the design process for buildings.

What Is A Portable Chute, and Is It Effective?

As the name suggests, such chutes are mobile. They are easily driven over to sites compromised by fires. Portable chutes consist of a platform that can carry about 3-4 people at a time. By that logic, if more people need rescuing, the platform needs to descend before it can rise once again. This will happen multiple times till everybody is safe. The major drawback here is that this process can waste quite a bit of time, potentially resulting in fatalities.

Attaching a fabric chute to the platform allows people to line up to enter it one by one and reach the ground in one trip. As with single-entry fire escape chutes, portable chutes also afford ease when it comes to saving people who are much older, injured, or knocked out because of the fumes.

Portable chutes are also appended to the aerial ladders that are part of fire trucks. They facilitate evacuees and ensure the safety of firemen. Furthermore, portable fire escape chutes are also attached to the windows and balconies of buildings.

Portable fire escape chutes consist of three layers, much like single-entry fire escape chutes. The outer layer protects against the fire and its unbearable heat, while the middle and innermost layers help control speed, and support the chute’s weight, respectively.

Features of Fire Escape Chutes

  • Offer protection to evacuees
  • No power supply needed
  • Easy to use
  • Serve multiple individuals at a time
  • No preparation required before use
  • Allow individuals to control the speed of their descent
  • People of all ages and health conditions can use it

Summing It Up

Safety has always been a concern, especially when it comes to life-threatening situations such as those caused by fires beyond the point of control. Property damage aside, it is particularly distressing when human lives continue to fall prey to such calamities, no matter the number. Fire escape chutes need to be part of every building’s fire evacuation procedure to ensure all residents’ safety.

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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium