Anthonius Gunawan Agung died from his injuries after jumping from his ATC Tower. This 21-year-old Indonesian Air Traffic Controller stayed behind at his post during a major earthquake to safely guide a loaded airline off the ground. Anthonius is a hero, this informational article is dedicated to him, his spirit and our work to avoid this from ever happening again.
Air Traffic Control Towers have a relatively small footprint but raise vertically from around 4 to 30 stories. ATC Towers can house 2 to 50 lives as nearly every landing contains some configuration of offices, breakrooms or bathrooms. There is one stairwell, usually open-aired and not all are fortunate enough to have elevators.
Challenges for the fire service
In the case of fire, the “chimney effect” will quickly target the Controllers inside the ATC Cab resting on top of these structures. Those who cannot escape down the stairs will be driven upward. But fire isn’t the only adversary we are facing, and a swift response during a natural disaster such as Anthonius’ is nearly non-existent.
Aside from our trucks being large and slow, response to ATC Towers nearly always involves an extended arrival time. Adding to the list of delays are traffic and physical barriers or gates to navigate through. But getting there is often just a portion of the challenges to Firefighters. When 99% of the World’s ladder trucks don’t reach above the 7th floor, you have better planned in advance.
- ‘Evacuation’ is the action of evacuating a person, usually oneself.
- ‘Rescue’ is to free someone from confinement, danger, or evil.
- ‘Supplemental Evacuation’ is an additional means of egress’
Requiring Supplemental Evacuation in certain occupancies
Supplemental Evacuation benefits the fire services in several ways. First by offering an enforcement aspect and shifting more responsibility to the building owner, building management and ultimately, the building inhabitants to plan for two ways out.
Secondly, if you arrive to the chaos of a multi-story emergency and must shift to performing rescues, less resources are left to extinguish the fire. Firefighters are the only ones trained and equipped to accomplish this task.
In some emergencies, such as this earthquake, fire services are immediately overwhelmed, and the general public must be prepared and educated to evacuate themselves from structures. In a pre-planning environment placement of a supplemental evacuation system can be uniquely located for each structure. There is no one size fits all. Your department’s capabilities and vulnerabilities need to be considered as you do your pre-emergency building inspections. You might have a beachside or lakefront building that offers no ladder truck access to one entire side of the structure. Creating a solution before any incident is the best approach and part of your commitment to your communities.
Fire Departments should introduce an educational campaign on Supplemental Evacuation for the community that they serve. It can begin by Firefighters demonstrating the equipment at a low and unintimidating second floor height. Inviting some stakeholders of high-rise buildings, nursing facilities, hospitals or Homeowner Association groups is a perfect start. This offers an opportunity for the general public to become more involved with supporting the fire services and the efforts to save lives by preparing ahead for emergencies above the second floor. Some organizations that you involve might even choose to purchase and donate the equipment to your department.
However, in honor of Anthonius and ATC Tower hazards specifically, here is how we are supplementing egress in those facilities.
High Rise Escape Systems Inc.’s products require no power, are light-weight, can be deployed by a single individual, have
a long shelf-life and most importantly, are easy to use.
A Controlled Descent Device or “CDD” is the heart of our systems. This gently lowers a person to the ground at a rate of 1 meter (three feet) per second. As each person is being automatically lowered, the opposite end of the cable ascends for the next user, which automatically reloads the device. This process continues until all people have evacuated. There are safety belts permanently attached to both ends of the cable. Two Evacuation Suits are also provided to offer fire-resistive protection as well as accommodate disabled, injured or unconscious personnel.
The Guardian Escape System holds the Escape Pack on its eyebolt at the tip of the removable swing-arm. This allows for nearly three feet of extension away from the pre-installed anchor that is typically erected on the ATC Catwalk. This equipment is usually stored safely just inside the catwalk door ready to deploy.
In an emergency, the swing-arm and CDD are brought outside to the bracket anchor-post. The swing-arm is placed into the upper section of the bracket and rests in place below. The Escape Pack is attached, and its cable spool released over the balcony. The swing-arm can then be rotated out over the railing and pinned into the ideal position. The rescue belt can then go around the evacuee and any slack taken out by pulling on the opposite side of the cable. The fire-resistive Evacuation Suits can also be deployed.
Onsite training is conducted shortly after the full installation of the main tower system at the second floor training area. An instructor training is typically completed with the first due Fire Department and key Tower personnel followed by the actual Air Traffic Controllers. This instructor training then enables the ATC team the ability to hold annual refreshers and train new Controllers as part of the orientation process.
I’m just one of many working to improve life safety in Air Traffic Control Towers. So, In honor of Anthonius, his selfless act of bravery and ultimate sacrifice. We renew our commitment toward winning these challenges with his spirit in mind.
For more information, go to www.HRES.com