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View Poll Results: Are you familiar with that kind of fire escape?
Yes. I know how they work. Very little description necessary. 9 52.94%
I kinda know how they work. 8 47.06%
What the heck is that thing? 0 0%
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For Book: How do Fire Escapes Work?
Old 09-03-2016, 06:39 PM   #1
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For Book: How do Fire Escapes Work?

Consider this kind of fire escape:



My heroine (who had trained with the Romanian gymnastics team) is being chased by a bad guy. She jumps and pushes off from the wall of a building and grabs onto the ladder part of a fire escape like the one pictured above.

My questions:

1. Would that ladder part stay up, or would it start descending when her weight is on it?

2. Are you familiar with that type of fire escape (poll)? IOW, do I have to describe it in detail, or would you understand if I referred to the kind of fire escape with a ladder that slides down?
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Old 09-03-2016, 06:44 PM   #2
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should descend as a result of her weight!
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Old 09-03-2016, 06:44 PM   #3
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Another image:

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Old 09-03-2016, 06:46 PM   #4
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The ladder would descend under her weight and the zombies in the street below would then devour her.
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Old 09-03-2016, 06:51 PM   #5
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I have never used a fire escape like that but have see them on tv. I have a basic understanding of how they work. I would know what you are talking about with a very brief description.
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Old 09-03-2016, 06:53 PM   #6
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That type of fire escape has a hook tword the top rung and when lifted hook falls away and you drop ladder which rides in tracks, then you climb down, not as easy as it sounds.

1) ladder is heavy
2) Decent is 90 deg to the ground so no cant to the ladder like on your house ladder.
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Old 09-03-2016, 06:55 PM   #7
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If she can parkour onto the lowest rung of the ladder, could she instead reach the lower edge of the platform. The ladder might descend under her weight, but the platform will not.

Or maybe it's dramatic to have the ladder start lowering, then she has to quickly climb up and onto the platform so the ladder will retract before bad guy reaches it.
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Old 09-03-2016, 06:57 PM   #8
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Just to add if you enlarge the pic you can see the hook on about the fourth rung ftom the top and the tracks that the ladder rides in top of bottom rung.
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Old 09-03-2016, 07:42 PM   #9
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The ladder should not start descending unless the hook is released at the top of the ladder. So if she jumps up from the sidewalk or bounces off the wall to the bottom rung the ladder it will not descend. You don't want people coming up the fire escape.
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Old 09-03-2016, 08:53 PM   #10
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This is what a counterbalanced fire escape looks like.

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Old 09-03-2016, 09:02 PM   #11
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For the most part, no explanation about the fire escape needed. Just have it work the way you need it to work and 99.99% of your readers won't question it.
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Old 09-04-2016, 07:59 AM   #12
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So, some say it has to be unhooked and others say it descends with weight. Hmm. I wonder if there are two kinds.

In any case, this isn't going to succeed for her. Either the ladder descends and the guy catches her, or he grabs her ankle and pulls her down.

Thanks for the help.
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:30 AM   #13
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Then how about this:

The fire escape is above an awning over a storefront.

She sees she can reach the fire escape by leaping up to grab the awning and pulling herself up to then reach the fire escape.

But the awning support is flimsy enough that it can't quite bear the additional weight and sags so she is caught.
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Old 09-04-2016, 09:43 AM   #14
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The awning is nice, but I've already got the bit written. Because I'm an incurable show off share-a-holic, here's my rough, pseudo-code version:
The guy was catching up. As expected. There! A fire escape ladder. Too high to jump onto? She angled away from it, then curved in, heading toward the wall almost at a right angle. She passed under the ladder and jumped. Her foot hit the wall four feet above the sidewalk. Pushing off, she launched herself toward the ladder with a half twist. Black-clothes guy could never match that.

The fingers of one hand caught the bottom rung and she swung her other arm around and up and got a good grip. Now the easy part. Even if her pursuer could get onto the fire escape, her stamina and agility would get her to the roof far ahead of him.

But she’d overestimated her lead. He’d caught up with her, and he jumped to grab her ankle. Perhaps he’d played basketball. She pulled in her legs as if escaping the jaws of an alligator.

He missed her ankle, but got his fingers hooked into the side of one of her high-tech athletic shoes. He put all his weight on it. She willed the shoe to slip off. If he’d hooked in at the heel, it would have. It didn’t.

She kicked and screamed for help. Come on, someone wake up. Her grip on the rusty rung slipping, she moved her other foot to push down on the heel slipping the traitorous shoe off. Why hadn’t she thought of that sooner?

But the man in black grabbed the ankle of her other leg. He now had a double grip and tugged back in jerks, like a bulldog with a pull toy. She watched her grip slipping loose. No!

She used her final seconds to plan her fall to cause the most damage. Could she land on his head? Bend his neck back?

With his next tug, she not only let go of the ladder, but pushed herself down, adding to the speed of her drop. She pulled herself into a ball, a sixty-kilo cannonball of muscle. Her knees connected with his head, knocking it to the side.
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Old 09-04-2016, 02:39 PM   #15
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I have seen a movie (most likely a Film Noir genre) in which a young man jumps UP from the sidewalk and grabs the bottom rung of the descending ladder which then deployed downward with his weight. He was then able to gain access to the entire fire escape. Therefore, I assume the ladder is intended to deploy with only the weight of a person. There did not appear to be any "latches" or other devices to hold the ladder in place. I'm guessing it is spring loaded - much as the horizontal, counter weighted steps in the picture in post 10.
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Old 09-04-2016, 06:49 PM   #16
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For the most part, no explanation about the fire escape needed. Just have it work the way you need it to work and 99.99% of your readers won't question it.
I'm that 0.01% guy who gets annoyed when the logistics are off...

If the author doesn't want the fire escape ladder to lower from a person's weight, perhaps it could be described as poorly maintained or damaged which prevents it from dropping...
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Old 09-04-2016, 07:04 PM   #17
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OK, do not know anything for sure, but will give my thought after looking at the pic...

First, I do not see any hook... not saying it is not there, I just do not see it...


BUT, take a look at it some more... there is no way it is a ladder that falls with a persons weight... if you are coming down to that point, the ladder is in your way...you cannot get on the ladder in order to put weight on it to lower it... it has to be lowered so it gets out of your way and then you climb down...

Also, if it were something that would come down with your weight, then it probably goes up without it... I do not see any springs, or anything else to raise it back up...

So, IMO, it has to be the hook and if lowered someone has to physically lift it back up to hook it...
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Old 09-04-2016, 07:38 PM   #18
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Me, I can barely change a light bulb.....but doesn't the ladder have a counterweight at one end......so that it works like a teeter-totter if someone's on the other end?
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:00 PM   #19
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Looking around the web, it appears that a final ladder on a fire escape is triggered with a release device up on the final landing (otherwise anyone could pull the ladder down and get into the building thru less guarded entrances). I found the NYC rules for fire escapes and they did not define how the ladder is to be lowered. However other sites on fire escapes did show release devices on the final landing (typically 12 foot above the street by NYC regulations)
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Old 09-04-2016, 08:20 PM   #20
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Looking around the web, it appears that a final ladder on a fire escape is triggered with a release device up on the final landing (otherwise anyone could pull the ladder down and get into the building thru less guarded entrances). I found the NYC rules for fire escapes and they did not define how the ladder is to be lowered. However other sites on fire escapes did show release devices on the final landing (typically 12 foot above the street by NYC regulations)
Right - it makes sense that the fire escape is for escaping, not as an entrance. If that were not the case, anyone could pull it down and have easy access to those multi-floor apartments. That wouldn't be good.

-ERD50
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