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Emergency abseiling equipment from flat

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 rony28 23 Jul 2020

Hi there,

Okay so this will be a bit of a weird thread but hear me out :P

I am not a climber/abseiler. I am moving into a flat on the 8th floor soon and I am just a bit paranoid about being stuck like what happened with Grenfell. Well not paranoid, but I want to have some back up. I found this product and it is exactly what I am looking for:

https://www.amazon.com/SkySaver-Backpack-Building-Evacuation-Emergency/dp/B013F0N7G0

However the price is a bit too steep.

I was then thinking to myself I could possibly fashion something by buying the constituent parts, i.e. climbing rope, harnesess etc. This is where I need your help, as I have no experience and I do not know the names of the constituent parts. Here is what I was thinking:

1) Long bit of climbing rope at least 30m

2) Some kind of hook to attach at the end of the rope which I can then attach to the railing (carabiner?)

3) Climbing harness to attach around my body

4) Some kind of mechanical system which lowers me at a speed that I can choose down the rope (does something like this exist)?

Can someone give me some advice on:

a) My design and any issues?

b) recommendations of products and other tips?

Thanks!

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In reply to rony28:

I don't know about advising a non-climber, but at the time of Grenfell I did think about the gear I have in my cupboard and wondered if I'd have enough gear to ab from an upper flat in Grenfell, and concluded that I indeed would, provided I did so before the fire got all the way round.  The big difficulty in buildings is finding something to anchor off, though.  Would have probably gone for the bed frame with really heavy stuff like the washing machine sat on top (or just a few slings round that) but there's nothing truly ideal.  Probably easier if the building has a balcony with hefty railings.

Post edited at 15:11
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 rony28 23 Jul 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

Hi Neil.

Why are you wary in advising me? This is for emergency only, so you will only be saving my life. I'm not going to be doing this only a daily basis, in fact I probably will never get a chance to use it hopefully!

In terms of having something to "anchor off", I have a Juliette Balcony, so there are many places on that railing in which I can attach the end of my rope/carabiner!

Thanks

Post edited at 15:28
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 BuzyG 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

The gear is of no use if you don't no who to rig it and use is safely.  You might find a local climber on here who is able to show you and then put some thing together at your own risk.  I have found it a great place for making new contacts in the few weeks I have been a member here. Simply posting up a list of kit here, without knowing details about your knowledge and property would be guess work.

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 wintertree 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

My main suggestion would be that you need to learn about the general rope work enough to be able to answer your own questions - if you get pre-canned answers you'll almost certainly not be able to appreciate the various interactions of equipment and circumstance that can conspire to kill you.

You might start with this BMC guide - https://shop.thebmc.co.uk/product/rock-climbing-essential-skills-techniques/

My main concern is that a polymer (nylon or dyneema) kernmantle rope such as is used for climbing is not going to be anywhere like heat or fire resistant enough for use in the situation you describe.  I would have other concerns about abrasion resistance if you e.g. have to smash a window to get your exit from the building.  

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 jimtitt 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

Petzl Exo. Made for what you want. Order cord length to suit. Get training.

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 Rob Parsons 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

There is not much to know, but you need to practice a bit so it would help if you could find somebody to show you in person.

Your overall idea seems fine. A normal climbing rope, a harness, and a figure-of-8 descender would more-or-less do it. And, both to anchor the rope and yourself, a couple slings and karabiners. The most fraught bit would probably be getting started from the railing.

As mentioned, the rope would be prone to burning/melting if there were any flames already about -  I notice that that device you found uses a wire cable.

Edit: Jim Titt's solution seems spot on. No need to reinvent the wheel!

Post edited at 15:59
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 dread-i 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

What about a couple of ex nato gas masks, 30+ meters of garden hose and a thick, long, leather jacket & leather gloves?

That might enable you to get to the fire escapes, put out any smaller fires on the way or at least cool the area. Avoid being burned to some degree and give you an extra few mins in the smoke, before you were overcome by fumes.

Edit to add:

Check out caving ladders, if you think you need to go out of the window. Much less to go wrong, if you're not familiar with abbing.

Post edited at 15:47
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 jkarran 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

> Why are you wary in advising me? This is for emergency only, so you will only be saving my life.

Not if you get it wrong and fall before the fire service clear the smoke and evacuate the building conventionally. Abseiling is an acquired skill, one that still kills plenty of insufficiently wary climbers.

> In terms of having something to "anchor off", I have a Juliette Balcony, so there are many places on that railing in which I can attach the end of my rope/carabiner!

Climbing kit wise: a length of 10mm static rope, a scaffolding karabiner to clip the balcony, an offcut of rope and a karabiner for a safety link (cow's tail, for climbing over the rail with your hands free), a basic harness, a descender and a leather glove is the basic minimum for someone not skilled in using or improvising the equipment. Unless you were well practised there'd be a good chance of killing yourself through rushing/inexperience. 

I'm not aware of a hands free descender that will let you down safely but there are some that will stop when you let go (eg, Petzl Stop or GriGri, you may need to untangle the rope), the downside of these is they tend to be harder to control than simple devices, they tend to run faster as you grab at them in panic (we all panic when falling!) so not ideal for a stressed novice in the dark. You might find some industrial equipment that fits the bill but it won't be cheap.

jk

Post edited at 15:49
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In reply to rony28:

The very last thing you want to be doing is trying a dangerous and unfamiliar technique in a stressful situation. Abseiling is inherently dangerous and even experienced climbers manage to f*ck it up on a regular basis.

I'm an industrial climber as well as a rock climber.  The sort of kits we use for tower rescue are much more appropriate for what you're talking about - see here for a British manufacturer:

https://www.heightec.com/product-category/rescue-equipment/rescue-systems/

Or here https://www.abaris.co.uk/Skylotec-Milan-2.0-Auto-descent-Rescue-Device

Using a constant rate descender like the ones in these kits all you have to do is put a harness on, clip in to the descender and jump off with no intervention necessary to manage the speed of the descent. You shouldn't use one of these kits without training, however, so please go and do a tower rescue course first.

Also, just to state what should be obvious, the anchor point you're using has to be sufficiently strong to take your weight. If you're serious about having an evacuation system like this you should get an eye bolt professionally fitted and pull tested in a position such that you won't hit anything as you're lowered to the ground.

Post edited at 16:04
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 rony28 23 Jul 2020

Thank you all for your replies.

Just to clarify some points.

I will not just be slapping together something really quickly with little research and then throwing myself out the 8th floor window for those worried about my lack of skill! I would like to think I am more sane than that!

Also just to reiterate, I will be using this in the worst case scenario, so if everything is on fire and I am going to die anyway, even having just the rope could save my life.

I ask here for initial pointers in the right direction for my research. And after I fashion my system I will test it multiple times (possibly like a climbing centre or somewhere with a low altitude) and get advice from a lot of people. 

From your replies, I  am now going to look into that Petzl Exo thing looks great, a descender, and fireproof material and gloves. 

Many thanks! Any further tips welcome

EDIT: That eye bolt idea is interesting. I can get one fitted against the wall near the balcony and I can have two attachments, one for the railing and one on the bolt. That's a good idea thanks. Unfortunately I don't think I can test this in a trial run on my actual flat, don't think the landlord will be very happy about me abseiling  down their building haha.

Post edited at 16:04
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 Mr Lopez 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

You are probably better off with an oxygen escape bottle and fire retardant overalls. That would solve the problem of the fire being in the flat below yours amongst others

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 rony28 23 Jul 2020
In reply to Mr Lopez:

Thanks Mr Lopez. However what happens if exits are blocked because of falling debris? I think being able to escape out the window would cover many more scenarios that are not fire related.

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In reply to rony28:

You do understand its an irrational fear don't you, and if you really are concerned about being burned alive in a high rise flat then perhaps renting/buying a property on the 8th floor isn't for the best?

What happened at Grenfell was truly, truly awful but there's many, many more mundane things that are more likely to kill you than an inability to escape a fire in your flat before it consumes the building. 

Try and smile, try and relax, and try and worry about something other than burning alive in an 8th floor flat (I understand that's easier said than done now that you've got the thought stuck in your head).

You could always give proper climbing a go though. It's aight laugh!! 😁

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 Mr Lopez 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

Doubt there'll be fallen debris unless your block got hit by an asteroid. Concrete or brick does not really crumble in a fire and fire routes/escapes are (supposed to be) specifically designed to avoid any such obstructions.

If you want to go for it the Petzl Exo as mentioned above is what you need, but you'll be increasing your risk considerably as compared with just walking down the stairs.

Make sure you practice often and get somebody 'in the know' to identify suitable anchors. A window makes a better path out than a balcony as then you don't have to deal with the overhangs from the balconies below which can be awkward if not having the technique dialled in. On the lfip side, they are more awkward to get out through.

Good luck

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In reply to rony28:

How about one of those zipwire grappling guns from the movies if there is another nearby high rise? Fire the gun and the zip across the wire, wearing a nice tux of course.

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 Andy Chubb 23 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

In my second year at university I lived on the top floor (5th I think it was) of a building with a single stairway. The 'fire escape' provided was a climbing wall type auto belay device bolted to the wall near the bedroom window, around which was a length of rope with a sling on the end to go around my chest, should escape be necessary. I used it many times when I had run out of milk, as my fellow students on the lower floors would normally keep their milk on the window ledge (no fridges provided - good idea in light of Grenfell). It was also interesting to see what was going on in the bedrooms below me as I drifted past!

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In reply to rony28:

I think you should move house.

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In reply to rony28:

Don’t ask a bunch of climbers about abseiling, ask a caged, they’re the experts.

So, as an ex caver, even I’d think twice about abbing out, Mr Lopez’s PPE idea would be best. But, if you insisted, get a couple of fire escape ladders like these and join them together.

https://www.firesafety.uk.com/evacuation-chairs-and-sledges/evacuation-ladders/chubb-15-foot-fire-escape-ladder/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9L67rJHk6gIVCbrtCh2SiwqwEAQYAiABEgKYmvD_BwE

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In reply to rony28:

Don’t ask a bunch of climbers about abseiling, ask a caver, they’re the experts.

So, as an ex caver, even I’d think twice about abbing out, Mr Lopez’s PPE idea would be best. But, if you insisted, get a couple of fire escape ladders like these and join them together.

https://www.firesafety.uk.com/evacuation-chairs-and-sledges/evacuation-ladders/chubb-15-foot-fire-escape-ladder/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9L67rJHk6gIVCbrtCh2SiwqwEAQYAiABEgKYmvD_BwE

Post edited at 21:07
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 JohnBson 24 Jul 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

My first abseil was following my (overweight) father down a rope tied off to the bannister... a couple of points equalised would now be my choice. On some sea cliffs you need to ab off rock cairns so a fridge on its side across a door frame would almost certainly be OK.

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 JohnBson 24 Jul 2020
In reply to wintertree:

I'm assuming that if it's his flat he can open a window.

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 JohnBson 24 Jul 2020
In reply to mick taylor:

You could use this and extend it with a rope. The ladder would be really useful for helping you get over the edge wouldn't it?

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 barry donovan 24 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

Save up and buy the best piece of super dooper equipment specialised and utterly perfect for the job - as you swing your leg over the railings eight floors up you wont be thinking  

“I’m glad I got such a cheap deal on all this old tat I’m hanging from “ 

Meanwhile make sure you take every precaution possible to prevent a fire starting 

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In reply to rony28:

If the device works as shown in the video and you install a secure bolt point then it would seem to be what you want. As you point out it is rather pricey. Another thing to bear in mind  (as with all emergency equipment) you may need to do regular maintenance or replace after a certain time. You don't want to find in 6 or 7 years time that it isn't working when an energency occurs.

An alternative is to practice some abseiling and/or climbing which would give you the skills to DIY. More time investment required but cheaper initiakl outlay...

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 Le Sapeur 24 Jul 2020
In reply to JohnBson:

> I'm assuming that if it's his flat he can open a window.

If a fire was licking at my soles I don't thing a non opening window would delay me much.

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 GrahamD 24 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

All you really need is a rope and a length of pole or wood or bit of furniture to stick across a door or window frame.  Just tie the rope to this.  Then learn to classic abseil without any aider device.  You probably don't want to be hanging around looking for a harness.

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 wintertree 24 Jul 2020
In reply to JohnBson:

> I'm assuming that if it's his flat he can open a window.

The fire doors on my last workplace - designed by a famous architect - expand in direct sunlight sufficiently to get wedged shut; I don't assume doors or windows will open in a fire.  Other problems include a lost key or sheared off handle etc.  You've got to plan ahead to the possibility of less than rational panic actions in a building-on-fire situation.

In reply to La Sapeur:

>If a fire was licking at my soles I don't thing a non opening window would delay me much. 

Exactly - which is why I suggested the risks of broken glass against a climbing rope.  A stuck window shouldn't delay me as I kept a "Lifeaxe" under my desk.  Sort of like knuckle dusters optimised for reinforced double glazing.  It may seem over-the-top but after the repeated instances of a fire door handle coming loose and just being screwed back on with the same screws (5 times and counting) and a fire door ceasing in the frame because it's too hot, it seemed prudent.

Post edited at 10:44
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 daWalt 24 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

has anyone suggested you should take up climbing as a hobby?

it's fun, gets you out and about, have different adventures and new experiences - not least it'll take your mind off worrying about cladding.

(ok, caving would work too; sigh - if you must)

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 wintertree 24 Jul 2020
In reply to daWalt:

> (ok, caving would work too; sigh - if you must)

Or, if the OP moves up above the 13th floor, BASE jumping.

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 Timmd 26 Jul 2020
In reply to wintertree:

>  It may seem over-the-top but after the repeated instances of a fire door handle coming loose and just being screwed back on with the same screws (5 times and counting) and a fire door ceasing in the frame because it's too hot, it seemed prudent.

I obviously don't know your office culture or what the places is like, have you not raised either of these with 'the powers that be', the handle coming off might not be so hard to address.

Post edited at 23:28
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 wintertree 26 Jul 2020
In reply to Timmd:

> >  It may seem over-the-top but after the repeated instances of a fire door handle coming loose and just being screwed back on with the same screws (5 times and counting) and a fire door ceasing in the frame because it's too hot, it seemed prudent.

> I obviously don't know your office culture or what the places is like, have you not raised either of these with 'the powers that be', the handle coming off might not be so hard to address.

Best laughter I’ve had in weeks, thanks!  

The powers that be are too busy paying themselves £350,000 a year - along with a nice, free, well located country house - and planning an early retirement now their chickens are coming home to roost and we’re potentially f****d, financially speaking.  Meanwhile the fire door handle that falls off keeps getting reported up the chain from little people like me to our local fault reporting system to our local facilities manager to the central facilities directorate’s error logging system to someone in the directorate to someone who does liaison with the contractors (who managed this new building and aren’t quite off the hook yet) to someone in a local fire door firm who comes out and tightens the same too-small screws in to the same ever-more-worn-out threads.

The last time it happened I was sorely tempted to walk over to the head honcho’s desk and wave the handle at him, but there’s security doors (to keep us income generators away from their free coffee vending machines and the artwork they blew £1m or is on), and anyway he’s normally off fundraising and definitely not job seeking somewhere in America.

I can understand why a reasonable person such as yourself would think that things like these (a door handle repeatedly falling off because it’s not strong enough for the heavy fire door, or a fire door that sticks when hot) would be taken seriously.  Hopefully you’ll never end up working in a large organisation where everybody cares but any sort of action is apparently impossible.

So I keep a dedicated window smashing device in my office.  Or kept, I don’t think I’ll be going back post lockdown.

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 Rob Parsons 27 Jul 2020
In reply to wintertree:

> I can understand why a reasonable person such as yourself would think that things like these (a door handle repeatedly falling off because it’s not strong enough for the heavy fire door, or a fire door that sticks when hot) would be taken seriously.  Hopefully you’ll never end up working in a large organisation where everybody cares but any sort of action is apparently impossible.

It's a Health & Safety matter; there are laws about it, and there are heavy penalties for ignoring them. If reminding your bosses of those facts doesn't get action, report the entire thing to the Fire Service.

Post edited at 08:55
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 wintertree 27 Jul 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

> It's a Health & Safety matter; there are laws about it, and there are heavy penalties for ignoring them. If reminding your bosses of those facts doesn't get action, report the entire thing to the Fire Service.

Aye; I’m only going back once more to collect my stuff once the building is un-mothballed.  I should check the door and if it’s the same old handle I can send my photo collection and fault log on to the fire brigade.  You get so used to the institutional inefficiency it becomes the norm, but fire door handles falling off should transcend that...

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 Flinticus 27 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

Practice abseiling from a steep hill (with a safe run out, e.g. not rolling down into a river or onto a road etc.) anchored to a well rooted and stout tree. That's what I did before moving on to abbing from the tree branches, increasing in height. Finally abbing off crags.

You'll want to be dressed in black figure hugging material incl balaclava, ideally fire retardant.

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 Darron 27 Jul 2020
In reply to GrahamD:

Surely not? That sounds like a sure fire way to kill yourself. In fact actually surer than the actual fire.

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 GrahamD 27 Jul 2020
In reply to Darron:

> Surely not? That sounds like a sure fire way to kill yourself. In fact actually surer than the actual fire.

Why ? classic abseils work fine and its a hell of a lot faster than trying to put on a harness in choking smoke.

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 Naechi 27 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

No fire service in the country would thank you for having to conduct a technical rope rescue from the side of a burning building.  Your money, time and resources would be far better spent ensuring that your flat and building fire regs were up to standard and maintained.

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 Trangia 27 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

As has been said, finding a suitable and safe anchor point might be your biggest problem. It needs to be a) safe from sliding or breaking, and  b)  conveniently situated for your escape window, I've been thinking back to when I lived in a flat and it's actually quite hard to think of anywhere or anything in the flat which met those criteria. My furniture was too light or flimsy,  or difficult to attach a rope to, plumbing was too thin to trust and there were no exposed parts of the structure to which I could have tied a rope.

Before embarking on spending lots of money on the rope and other gear, I suggest you solve the anchor problem first, which may mean breaking into and constructing a strong point in the structure in advance. Leaving it until the fire actually occurs may be too late.

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 Timmd 29 Jul 2020
In reply to wintertree:

> Best laughter I’ve had in weeks, thanks!  

> The last time it happened I was sorely tempted to walk over to the head honcho’s desk and wave the handle at him, but there’s security doors (to keep us income generators away from their free coffee vending machines and the artwork they blew £1m or is on), and anyway he’s normally off fundraising and definitely not job seeking somewhere in America.

> I can understand why a reasonable person such as yourself would think that things like these (a door handle repeatedly falling off because it’s not strong enough for the heavy fire door, or a fire door that sticks when hot) would be taken seriously.  Hopefully you’ll never end up working in a large organisation where everybody cares but any sort of action is apparently impossible.

> So I keep a dedicated window smashing device in my office.  Or kept, I don’t think I’ll be going back post lockdown.

You're welcome. I think I'd be tempted to try and repair it myself with longer screws, but that might cause them to care in a way they previously didn't do I dare say. Hopefully I'll never work somewhere like that 

Post edited at 14:34
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 rony28 31 Jul 2020
In reply to deacondeacon:

I think you misunderstand me. I am not worried at all, as I said before I am probably never going to use this. If I were paranoid and getting really worked up about this then yes I can see it being an irrational fear. 

See it more as me buying a bit of insurance, just as I would buy building/home contents insurance, but instead of paying a premium, all I need is a bit of rope and some equipment that is also easy to store. Why not?

@RX-78, I wish haha!

@mick taylor, Interesting, but I would need about 10 of those ladders to get me to ground! And I would need to faff about with joining them together as I am working my way down!

Maybe as JBson mentions I can use it to get over the ledge. I don't  see myself having much problem getting over the ledge as I see myself as quite a fit/athletic individual. But obviously in times of panic that might change.

@daWalt, I actually have done bouldering several times before, but not near enough to even call myself a beginner. I enjoyed it and would probably do some more if I had one near me. Of course this is more abseiling. That's another kettle of fish, I have never done this before and I guess I could get into it if I have time.

@Naechi, I am not sure you know what an emergency is. As mentioned multiple times I will only be attempting this as a last resort where the fire is literally in my face and fire service is tied up for whatever reason. If I see the fire service extending their ladders to come save me or foresee it, I am not going to go freestyle abseiling just for the fun of it. Again I am buying this equipment as an insurance.

@Trangia, my juliette balcony is perfect anchor point so that isn't an issue. The only issue is if the juliette balcon loosens and falls off (which I guess is extremely unlikely) and the need to find a anchor for my back up line.

@Darron, if the risk of falling is more likely to kill me than the fire I will not be attempting it. As mentioned before this is only in the most extreme of cases.

Many thanks for your replies! I think I will purchase two quality climbing ropes with carabiners on the end, gloves, harness, and figure 8/anti-panic descender and use this as my initial set up. I will practise with these and upgrade as necessary. But I think in times of emergency this set up will suffice.

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In reply to rony28:

To add to the above. For an in flat anchor, 2m of scaffolding bar across a doorway. Just mark the mid point, put a sling around it and place on the floor, once weighted it won't move. Exiting a balcony and being clipped into it is harder than having anchors further back, so you can fasten yourself onto the rope stood inside first. 

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 Frank R. 31 Jul 2020
In reply to rony28:

YRGD!!! :D (dunno, was that a real question from the OP or just a troll post?)

> I am not sure you know what an emergency is. As mentioned multiple times I will only be attempting this as a last resort where the fire is literally in my face and fire service is tied up for whatever reason.

I am not sure you know what an emergency is? No disrespect, but have you ever be in one? The whole point of an expensive bespoke system you are trying to rig up cheaply is easy and safe use use in an emergency (i.e. as automatic as possible - all the commercial escape systems feature automatic hands-free speed-limiting descenders). Most people don't behave "easy and safe" in an emergency. It's just that so many things that can go wrong in the heat of the moment, and people don't behave safely in bad situations unless actually trained in them, as realistically as possible. If the fire is literally in your face, you are just f***d up, unless you specifically trained for it, sorry...

BTW, you'd need Aramid static rope, which is quite expensive. Regular climbing rope stretches a lot and made of nylon, melts very easily. Your fig.8 descender ain't that safe for emergency use and won't work that well on slick ropes.

That said, would I emergency abseil on my climbing rope as a last resort in building fire if it was the only thing I had? Most probably yes, but I wouldn't expect a very good outcome...

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In reply to rony28:

You don't seem to understand how dangerous abseiling is, although many people have tried to tell you.  Your set-up may be easy to store, but it won't be easy to use.  Many very experienced climbers have died abseiling, often in far less pressured situations than you are envisaging.  You really do need to take your time and check, check and check again before committing yourself - are you going to be able to stay calm enough to do this?  

Having an escape plan is good, but the danger is that under pressure you get locked into that thinking and overlook better and safer ways of escaping.  You should first be making every effort to escape via the building's escape routes, which are designed for the purpose.

If a fire breaks out in a flat it will take some time to spread to the neighbouring flats, and that should give you plenty of time to escape by conventional methods. There should be at least 30 minutes, and more usually 60 minutes, fire resistance between apartments.  Even if fire spread through a window from the flat below, that shouldn't prevent you from exiting via the corridor.  The problem at Grenfell was that the escape plan assumed people would be safer waiting in their flats for the fire service to rescue them - those who ignored that advice and made for the exits survived.  Now I think people would respond differently, and would never find themselves in a situation where a blaze prevented them from reaching the fire escapes, although smoke and toxic fumes remain a danger.

If I were in your situation, rather than abseil (and I'm an experienced abseiler), I'd invest in a smoke hood which would enable you to reach the escape stairs, which will have a fire resistance of at least 30 minutes, even if the corridor is filled with smoke.  I'd have fire extinguishers to deal with a fire in my own flat, but my priority would be to get out through the building.

What you have in mind is not a cheaper version of the Skysaver, it is an entirely different set-up.  The Skysaver is easy to put on (harnesses are easily twisted even when you are familiar with them), is attached to a secure anchor (not a balcony not designed for these loads and stresses), has a fire-proof steel cable (not a nylon rope with low melting point) and automatically controls the speed of descent (rather than relying on control by an inexperienced user with an unfamiliar device).  If you really think you might have to go out of the window, bite the bullet and invest in that.  Far better to plan and prepare so you will never have to.

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 DancingOnRock 01 Aug 2020
In reply to rony28:

50m of static rope. Tie some 20cm loops with a simple overhand knot every half metre, big enough that you can put your hands through. At one end tie a loop for a carabiner. Pass the rope round a big immovable object and clip it back on itself. 
 

You then have a long rope you can reasonably safely climb down while using your feet against the knots to control your descent. 
 

Practice a few times from a tree in the park. We used to do this as kids a lot. Basic no rung rope ladder. 

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 freeflyer 01 Aug 2020
In reply to rony28:

When I was about 8, my family moved into a house with a substantial roof conversion, including metal pipe banisters on the stairs which made a great climbing frame when the parents weren't watching.

In the ceiling above one of the windows was a large and interesting metal eye bolt, and in the cupboard was a gadget with rope and a sling that clearly could be attached - a descender!

However the drop from the window was about 30 feet and seemed a bit far for a first attempt; fortunately the first floor loo was immediately below and had a window just big enough for an 8 year old to climb out of. Cue some simple rigging (attach gadget to eye, lower rope out of window to loo height) and give it a go. It worked. After that, confidence was up and the top window got a lot of use for emergency evacuation practice

The simple sling was extremely effective, and no harness was required; perhaps somewhat like the ones they use in the rescue helicopters? It was quick to deploy and required little or no experience, just a modicum of confidence.

I'd suggest something like that, plus some investment in a bomber attachment point. Ladders and harnesses all sound a bit fiddly.

Personally, I've always wanted a house with a fireman's pole...
 

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 Trangia 01 Aug 2020
In reply to rony28:

 I've often wondered why there isn't a moratorium on building residential flat blocks  higher that can be reached by fire engine extending ladders? I know that it's to do with the economics of homes construction, but what is the value of human life?

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In reply to Neil Williams:

I haven't read this whole thread at all closely, but in the 1970s I lived in a shared flat at the very top of an enormous 6-storey terraced flat in Kensington. There were no fire escapes (because it had been a private house), and the main staircase, with multiple flights of stairs and a huge open stairwell all the way up from street level, would have been very dangerous in a fire. My small room/bedroom was at the back of the house. Because mine was almost an attic room, its small window was out of line with the big windows below, so I had a clear abseil run of c.65 feet down a brick wall into a yard. I had an old doubled climbing rope permanently attached with an old steel screwgate krab to a sturdy pipe on the old fashioned radiator under the window, and about 6 feet in, an old figure of 8 descendeur I was no longer using already threaded and attached by another krab to an old Littlejohn harness that was incredibly fast/easy to get in and out of. The harness and all the spare rope simply lived under my bed, next to the window. I reckon I could have been out of that window in less than half a minute.

I had a very scary fire in my present house about a decade ago, and the thing which shocked me was how rapidly the house filled with dense, toxic smoke. You probably haven't got much longer than about 4 or 5 minutes at the very outside (in a very serious fire, probably a lot less) to get out, and then you're going to be asphixiated. You have to get out. Better to suffer some burns than to die a certain death by asphixiation, long before you're actually burned to a cinder. 

As others have said, how you react in an emergency is crucial. You have to have an emergency plan ready. In the above fire, I managed to put out the main source, a microwave that had caught fire (flames about 4 feet high were lapping round the kitchen cabinet above it, and the whole of the work top to its left - everything on it - had caught fire. I managed to put out the worst of the fire by throwing big towels over it. All the time I was literally shouting to myself 'KEEP CALM! KEEP CALM!' I then staggered out into the street in my dressing gown billowing with smoke. My face was quite badly scorched, eyebrows burnt, and all hairs on my chest not covered by the dressing gown, gone. Amazingly a fire engine had arrived seconds before I left the house - that was in the days when my little town still had its own fire brigade ... a very sharp neighbour had seen some smoke coming out of a downstairs window, and immediately dialled 999 (or 444, or whatever it was) and they came incredibly fast. And then an ambulance. I was bundled into the ambulance and they were just amazing. I remember one of them said jokingly, do you realise what you look like, and showed me in a mirror. I was just like a coal miner, with a completely black face from just those few minutes of smoke.

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In reply to DancingOnRock:

This is absolutely terrible advice. You're talking to a non-climber! How do you know how strong and fit they are, how good their head for heights is, etc etc. Emergency evac kit needs to be foolproof, because life threatening situations can turn you into an idiot. Unless OP is planning on training and practicing extensively, which they haven't indicated that they are, they should stick with a real rope rescue kit or reconsider the whole plan. Suggesting anything else is downright irresponsible.

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In reply to Trangia:

>  I've often wondered why there isn't a moratorium on building residential flat blocks  higher that can be reached by fire engine extending ladders? I know that it's to do with the economics of homes construction, but what is the value of human life?

I know it was rhetorical, but there are various figures for it and there will be one used in this context.  But away from that, if you avoid putting petrol soaked matchwood up the side of blocks of flats, the containment approach does actually have a very good safety record - there have been plenty of 1960s concrete blocks that have had serious fires which have remained in the flat in which they occurred or maybe spread in a minor way to the one above or to the side.  The principle is solid, it was broken at Grenfell by the negligent decision to clad it in a highly flammable material.  If they hadn't, Grenfell wouldn't have made more than the local free rag - it would have been a minor electrical fire in one flat which the fire brigade would have rocked up and put out (as they did), and they wouldn't have been back half an hour later to see it all the way up the side.

Post edited at 10:39
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 DancingOnRock 02 Aug 2020
In reply to pancakeandchips:

Really? If you think someone is going to tie some knots in a rope and test it by climbing out of a window 100ft up. You need your head examined more than they do. 

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 DancingOnRock 02 Aug 2020
In reply to Neil Williams:

All buildings now have two stairwells. Grenfell was marked for demolition several years ago. 

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In reply to DancingOnRock:

I'm sure there are still houses like the one Gordon describes.  However regulations for HMOs have been tightened up and a fire risk assessment is mandatory.

I think in his situation I might well have made similar preparations.  However it's one thing for experienced climbers and abseilers to bale out of a window, quite another for someone with little or no experience.

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In reply to Howard J:

There were very few regulations in the 1970s for shared flats. Nowadays, I'm sure that huge top flat in South Kensington would be impossible. Because there was just the one major stairwell, a huge external fire escape at the back would have to be made, and then there are a probably a whole lot of other problems that would make it hugely expensive. In that house there were five flats altogether. The first two very posh, big, the next too semi-posh, and our two-storey one at the very top - old servants' quarters, undecorated (we were allowed to decorate it). Very small, primitive kitchen, one huge living room, a half-decent bathroom, and six bedrooms. 7 of us altogether (1 couple), mostly English and Poles. We all got on famously and made friends for life. It was just the time I was breaking into working on big feature films, having been working freelance on TV films for 6 years. They were very exciting times, and I have very, very fond memories of it. It was one of those amazing big London houses where peace and calm descended the moment you went through the big front door, and right at the top of the house it was so calm and peaceful you might as well have been in the country or another world.

Nostalgia, sorry.

PS. The rent by London standards was almost ridiculously low (divided by 7) because the landlord knew that, even then, its facilities, state of repair, etc., were well below standard. He was a good guy though, a certain Mr. Friedman, with multiple properties.

Post edited at 14:33
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 DancingOnRock 02 Aug 2020
In reply to Howard J:

As kids we built treehouses and rope swings and bridges. ‘Experienced climbers and abseilers’ are not the only people allowed to climb trees and hang from ropes. I really wonder what’s happened to this world. 
 

Next you know people won’t be allowed to swim in lakes unless they have some kind of qualification. 

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 GrahamD 02 Aug 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

I'm sure we did traditional abseiling in the scouts.  I wasn't  "A Climber" back then.

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 DancingOnRock 02 Aug 2020
In reply to GrahamD:

At school we would climb the rope in PE to the top of the gym. That would have been at least 30ft. Hand over hand with legs wrapped around the rope. You really didn’t let go, it wasn’t an option  

30 years ago I did a Mountain Leader assessment, there were a mix of hill walkers and climbers. When it came to the safety on steep ground we had to negotiate a fairly easy climb (maybe touching grade 2 scramble) of around 30ft and then make sure the rest of the party were safe climbing up. We were given free choice from a sack full of equipment. The climbers leaped in, keen to be the first to show their skills, they took ages rigging all sorts of equalised systems, used harnesses, belay devices and tied in to belay stances. 

The rest of us set up a classic belay and a loop of rope around the ascenders waist. 

There was a fair amount of very grumpy climbers looking on with amazement. 
 

Lots of people overthink things that are very simple. 

Post edited at 16:10
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 deepsoup 02 Aug 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> Lots of people overthink things that are very simple. 

And some under think things that really aren't quite as simple as they're assuming.  Pancakeandchips is completely right, your 'knotted rope to climb down from the 8th floor of a burning building' suggestion is ludicrous.

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 DancingOnRock 02 Aug 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

And climbing down from the 8th floor of a building isn’t ludicrous? 
 

Do you not think the type of person planning on carrying out that activity would do some test climbs first. Do you really expect someone to tie some knots in a rope and chuck it under the bed and say - “That’ll do, I’m good to go.”
 

Really you’re missing a chunk of real life application and experience here. Watch some of the Royal Marines going hand over hand up cliffs in the 40s. 

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 daWalt 02 Aug 2020
In reply to DancingOnRock:

> At school we would climb the rope in PE to the top of the gym. That would have been at least 30ft.

no. it really wasn't 30ft.

you were just small.

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 wintertree 02 Aug 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

> And some under think things that really aren't quite as simple as they're assuming.  Pancakeandchips is completely right, your 'knotted rope to climb down from the 8th floor of a burning building' suggestion is ludicrous.

It's not the best idea is it?  I'd imagine a rope so knotted doesn't store well and is more likely than normal to tangle when unpacking in a blind fire-driven panic.  It put me in mind of the classic trope of escaping a room on knotted bedsheets...

Here's someone doing it with knotted bedsheets.  I'll bet £42 they shinned up from the ground, not down from the balcony, in the photo under "Step 6: Sucess" [sic]...

https://www.instructables.com/id/Bed-Sheet-Escape-Rope

Post edited at 16:53
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 DancingOnRock 02 Aug 2020
In reply to daWalt:

A quick google gives gym ropes up to 9m. So you’re right. Just 29ft. Although I don’t think they reached the ground. 

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 Daniel Joder 02 Aug 2020
In reply to rony28:

I agree with many above that perhaps there are many and much better alternatives than trying to rappel (I’m a Yank, sorry). Whatever system or procedure you choose, make sure you have practiced it over and over so that it will be automatic in case of a real emergency. Again, I’m not sure how safely you could rap down under such circumstances.

Example... Recently, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, we were trapped in Argentina for five months. We rented an apartment on the 5th floor and while there (and being a climber) I casually wondered if I could quickly lower my wife from the balcony and then rap down in case of emergency. It would have been tricky. Even though there was a pretty bomb proof railing I could have used as an anchor (one of the huge issues pointed out above), the act of actually getting on rappel would have been very, very awkward. There was no convenient ledge to stand on to set things up (i.e., put the rope in the braking device then lean back and start down) as the anchor pipe was literally the top edge of the balcony railing. I’d have to load my device, then awkwardly climb over the railing with slack in the system and one hand on the brake strand. Experienced climbers have likely done something similar on an awkward rappel out on the crag, but it isn’t something easy to do for a non-climber.

Lowering my much lighter wife would have likely worked. My plan would have been to double or triple wrap the rope around the anchor pipe, much like many top rope systems in the gym, then lower her that way, rather than use a traditional braking device. She also would have to climb awkwardly over the railing with some slack in the system until she weighted the rope.

Anyway, the point is that, although not out of the question, there are some serious problems with “abseiling” down to escape a fire and the plan would need to be thoroughly thought out and rehearsed... and you’d need to have the gear right there where it needed to be for use at a moments notice.

Good luck!

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In reply to DancingOnRock:

> All buildings now have two stairwells. Grenfell was marked for demolition several years ago.

All *new* buildings might (I don't know), there are still plenty of 1960s concrete buildings like it that aren't marked for demolition, there's one near me, and it's had a few fires and none spread outside the flat - the design is actually very good (though a second stairwell is obviously better, that actually would have made little difference to Grenfell as it wasn't actually breached until very late on if at all other than being full of smoke).

One slightly irony is that particularly outside London this sort of block tends to house poorer people, and those poorer people tend to have older electrical appliances which pose a higher fire risk, and also tend to be more likely to smoke.

Post edited at 22:31
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In reply to DancingOnRock:

This isn't about kids messing about, or people being "allowed" to swing on ropes, though.  It's whether it's wise for someone with no abseiling experience to consider abbing out of an 8th floor window. 

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 DancingOnRock 03 Aug 2020
In reply to Howard J:

Quite. So avoid abseiling or other complex equipment requirements. Knotted rope. Alternatively use a robust drainpipe. They’re extremely quick and easy to climb up and down. 

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In reply to DancingOnRock:

I reckon there's a very high chance that someone not used to climbing would fall from a knotted rope.  Climbing ropes (or caving ladders) is not an easy thing to do, and climbing down them even harder.

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In reply to DancingOnRock:

Better to plan so you never find yourself in a situation where your only escape is out of the window.  Especially when you are not used to finding yourself 30m above the ground.  Most UKCers are going to be more or less OK with that, but the OP is not a climber.  A lot of novice climbers freak out a lot nearer the ground than this, even when they are on a rope, and that's without the stress of your building being on fire.

Grenfell was an extraordinary situation which has skewed people's thinking.  Most fires in high-rise buildings are dealt with successfully with no risk to life.  The problem with Grenfell was the cladding, but as a result all high-rise buildings are now being tested for inflammable materials. A modern building will have two means of escape, make sure you can get to one them, use a smoke hood if necessary. 

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 DancingOnRock 03 Aug 2020
In reply to Howard J:

Most people would look out of their window and think there’s no way they’d attempt that. 
 

Very few people would look out of the window and think that’s doable. 
 

I don’t think the OP is in the ‘most people’ category. Do you? 
 

At no point has anyone said, “Just throw a rope out and go for it mate.”

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In reply to DancingOnRock:

> Most people would look out of their window and think there’s no way they’d attempt that. 

> I don’t think the OP is in the ‘most people’ category. Do you? 

I do actually, up to a point anyway.  He's said he's not a climber or abseiler.  He's looked at an escape system which provides a controlled descent using a steel cable off a special fixed anchor, but it's expensive and he wondered if he could make something similar using climbing equipment.  A number of people have tried to explain why they're not equivalent systems. 

If he's thought about attempting the ab, maybe it's because he doesn't fully understand what it involves and what might go wrong. And even if he thinks he'd go for it, it might be a different matter when he's on the brink.  Anyone who's taken novices climbing or abseiling will have had some who just freeze, even when on a safety rope.  Of course, if your flat's ablaze then that's quite an incentive, but perhaps not the best time to trust to a nylon rope.

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 DancingOnRock 03 Aug 2020
In reply to Howard J:

I’d not take novices off a 30m cliff for a start.

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In reply to DancingOnRock:

> I’d not take novices off a 30m cliff for a start.

But you're happy to advise the OP to descend from this height down a knotted rope or a drainpipe?

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 DancingOnRock 03 Aug 2020
In reply to Howard J:

I haven’t advised him to do that. Read my original statement. Maybe no one has actually bothered to read what I wrote? I thought it was pretty clear. 

I also suspect people have ignored the fact that there will be window ledges every 3m below. He’s not abseiling down a featureless rockface. 
 

As has been pointed out, a classic abseil would be perfect for this. There’s a lot of friction. 30m you could probably descend in well under a minute, stopping briefly at each of the 7 window ledges. I’d guess you could even drop the last 2m with no issues. 
 

No one is going to rig up something and not test it first from a tree or bridge or something. 

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 Scott K 06 Aug 2020
In reply to rony28:

They use things called Donut on some offshore installations but no idea what the cost is. Would certainly be cheaper than the backpack link.

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