Soft Landing for Leapers
A man jumped from the 11th floor of a San Diego parking garage and landed safely on a pnuematic cushion on the ground to show the effectiveness of the new rescue device.
The demonstration was part of the program of the ninth annual Fire Command Officers Academy held in San Diego in January, Dar Robinson, a 170-pound movie stunt man, made the big leap after jumping first from the sixth and then the 10th floor of the Parkade Building in the Civic Center.
The “air safety cushion” was devised by Jerry Pfister of Air Safety Products, Metairie, La., after he had seen four women leap to their deaths during the Rault Center fire in New Orleans last November. The cushion offers people trapped by fire in a tall building a way to get out safely, Pfister says.
The pneumatic cushion gives leapers an 18 X 25-foot target that is 9 feet high when inflated. Made of vinylcoated nylon, the cushion is stored rolled and after being spread on the ground is inflated in 30 seconds by two electric fans attached to tubes extending from the bag. If only one fan is used, it still takes less than two minutes to inflate the cushion, Pfister says.
The cushion weighs 275 pounds and when rolled, it measures 2X5 feet. Anchor straps on the bag make it possible to move the cushion after it has been inflated. It has a large upper chamber and a smaller lower chamber that is inflated to a higher pressure than that in the upper chamber and provides additional safety.
The upper chamber is not air tight. It has flaps and breather openings that act as an air release system to absorb the energy of a falling body and control the deceleration rate within safe limits. When a body lands on the cushion, it is cradled without rebound so that a jumper is not tossed off the bag.
The air cushion demonstration was conducted under the supervision of Robert Ely, a retired assistant chief of the San Diego Fire Department.
The demonstration concluded on all-day high-rise program of the Fire Command Officers Academy under the direction of Edward W. Bent supervisor of the California Fire Service Training Program, with Ben Renfro, a retired assistant Chief of the Los Angeles City Fire Department in charge of the highrise sessions. More than 300 fire officers attended the week-long academy sessions.