Emergency skyscraper parachutes originally designed and tested by Czech firm
On the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, some attention in the Czech Republic has focused on special emergency parachutes originally developed by a Czech firm that could save lives under horrifying and hopeless conditions like those witnessed on September 11th at the World Trade Center.
The technology, licensed by US company Evacuchute, was developed by the Czech Republic's Stratos 07, a firm long specialising in emergency systems and parachute design.
Radio Prague spoke to Stratos 07's owner Josef Straka, and asked him about the product's history and development:
"Our company has extensive experience in creating emergency systems and we were interested in creating an emergency high rise parachute even before 9/11. Afterwards, we were contacted by US company Evacuchute. Producing such a parachute was by no means an ordinary project: our design had to go further than others available, like one paraglide design. Normally, when you jump alongside a building regular parachutes get dragged to the wall, leading to collision. We had to come up with one that was actually pushed away during descent."
The revolutionary design, says Straka, took three years to refine:
"First you test the parachute from airplanes and helicopters using weights, which is then followed by actual parachutists. Then, we tested it again using weights from buildings, taking into account different air currents, then we moved to construction cranes. In the final stage, parachutists themselves did test jumps from buildings, but by that point all details had already been determined. You can't make any mistakes since there are lives at stake. The system was tested extensively, more than two hundred times."
Unlike a standard parachute Stratos 07's design works from as low as the 12th floor. According to the company head, had there been a similar design in existence on 9/11, it could have made a difference.
"When I saw the images from 9/11 again, I think many of those people could have been saved. If they had been able to use such a parachute from either the roof or the windows, I think they could have survived. Even those who would normally be afraid to jump would rather rely on the parachute than stay behind. That's purely psychological. In the plan such parachutes would be included on every floor, with people on the floors receiving basic instruction like you do on a plane. There would also have been a number of people on each floor who had additional schooling."
Josef Straka says that the product released by US firm Evacuchute came to be known as "The Civilian System for High Rise Occupants" - but sales, Pravo has pointed out, have lagged. On the anniversary of 9/11, the daily wrote that at almost 2,000 US dollars the cost of the system was fairly high to be widespread. Presumably the product has also suffered from the fact that following 9/11 emergency systems like this were not made mandatory anywhere in the US.