Imagine being trapped in an office or apartment in a burning high-rise building with no foreseeable way out. The stairs are full of smoke, the elevators have been shut down, and the heat and lack of oxygen are beginning to overcome the senses. The only alternatives are to stay put and hope rescue workers will miraculously save you, or jump from the open window.
That’s precisely the scenario that Israeli company Moseroth Technologies was considering when they began developing the smart rescue device The Spider Rescue System. A compact device made of fire safe steel; the Spider lowers people to the ground via a harness and steel cable. In only one and a half minutes, two people can be lowered from a 15th story building where rescue forces can’t reach.
Everyone who was witness to the endlessly repeated footage of the September 11th World Trade Center bombings aftermath will never forget the horror of seeing people fling themselves to their death instead of burning alive inside. Those images were what prompted Moseroth’s engineers to begin working on the technology that became the Spider, according to Shay Marin, the company’s vice president of sales and operations.
“After September 11th, it became clear that a product was needed that could evacuate people out of a tall building. Whether it’s a fire or a terror attack, when a staircase is full of smoke, or has collapsed, people don’t have a way to rescue themselves. They’re forced to jump out of the windows, something we’ve seen far too often,” Marin told ISRAEL21c.
“Our engineers understood the problem and developed a rescue device based on the concept of a steel cable. It’s multi-faced, so two people can go down at a time, the cable can be harnessed and recoiled to go down again,” he added.
Marin said that Moseroth has developed two different Spider devices based on the same mechanical patent but they target different markets. One is designed for home use and the other is designed for office use.
The Spider works on a simple principle. The user puts on a harness, attaches himself or herself to the cable (which is designed to lower up to 50 floors), and then exits out of the window. When the Spider, which is attached to the floor, senses the user’s weight, it starts to unwind the cable.
A double-mechanism brake prevents the cable from being released too fast. The brake ensures that the speed of the descent will be no more than 6 feet per second, which guarantees that the user will descend safely to the ground.
The system’s reusability is the one feature that marks the difference between The Spider Office and The Spider Home. With the Spider Home, the user has to rewind the cable via the handle in order to reuse the device. With the Spider Office, the user simply needs to change the cartridge. This means that a very short time passes between uses.
Moseroths’ expertise with steel cables goes back more than 30 years, explained Marin.
“Our field is steel cables and safety products. We make steel cables for most of the big elevator companies, and make parts for the army for tanks and airplanes,” he said. “Another facet of the company is our cyclone fence division. We received the tender for our patented cyclone fence from the government to put up parts of the security fence between Israel and the territories – it’s a special patent that does it very quickly.”
But the company’s main focus now is on the Spider, which as developed in their plant in the southern town of Netivot.
“It’s taken us years and over $1 million to develop the Spider and to pass all the tests of the Standard Institute for Israel. Earlier this year, they approved the device, and since then we’ve begun selling it throughout Israel, and are getting interest from the US,” he said.
“The Israeli Foreign Ministry have bought some units to install in Israel’s embassies around the world, and we’re negotiating with a few government and high tech companies, as well as major banks, health services and high rises in Tel Aviv.”
With the approval by the Israel Standards Institute, Moseroth has begun contacts with American institutions such as the New York Fire Department. On a parallel track, the Spider has been sent to the voluntary organization – the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASTN) whose approval will enable The Spider to further infiltrate the American market.
“It’s a little more complicated in the US, because every state is different in its regulations,” said Marin. “But we anticipate selling between 10 and 30 thousand units in the US by 2007.”
According to Marin, The Spider is easily and permanently installed into the floor or into a wall and is always instantly ready for external use in case of any emergency or disaster.
“The Spider is very easy to install in an office or apartment – it takes about an hour,” he said, adding that the $2,000 cost includes installation and instruction on how to use the device.
Watching a video demonstration of The Spider in action raises a question of whether a person at risk is ready to take the leap of faith required in order to back out of a window of a high rise. But according to Marin, the company carefully considered the psychological aspects involved in rescue operations when designing the device.
“If somone’s in the middle of a fire and either has to jump out the window or put on the harness and back out the window, there’ not much of a choice. Our device will take him down safely,” he said.
“When designing the Spider, we learned a lot about how people behave in these cases and the psychological trauma that takes place. All the fear will evaporate. They know they need something to help them get down securely.”
And with The Spider, it appears that the secure solution has been found.