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Fire Prevention & Safety Research & Development Grants - 2008 Grant Awards - 02504

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This page contains information about Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Research and Development (R&D) Grant number EMW-2008-FP-02504. The content is useful for those in the fire service seeking information about to how to improve the safety and health of firefighters.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Data
Project Title:Escape Rope Performance and Design in Fireground Applications
Organization:The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Principle Investigator:Gavin Horn, Ph.D
Grant Number:EMW-2008-FP-02504
Award Total:$724,759
Period of Performance:07/31/2009 - 01/30/2013
Grant Status:Completed





Escape rope systems provide a critical lifeline for firefighters who are trapped by oncoming fire on elevated floors. Fatalities and severe injuries continue to occur when firefighters attempt to jump to safety from as low as the second and third floors when reliable escape rope systems are not available. Despite this fact, the escape rope systems that are on the market are not required to be tested in conditions that are representative of the likely emergency environment, so there is no scientifically-based confidence in the fitness for duty of these systems.


The purpose of this project is to identify potential failure modes of escape systems, develop laboratory tests to realistically duplicate potential in-use failure scenarios, study capabilities of current systems, and develop solutions to the gaps present.


A standard methodology for testing the effects of temperature and bend sensitivity on mechanical properties of escape rope will be developed. Data will be collected over a range of temperatures and bend radii on four different commercially available escape ropes. The main effects of rope construction and temperature/bend radius on rope strength will be analyzed within the rope samples. At the same time, the reliability of the rope systems will be computed via analysis of the strength distribution and loading distribution. A new method will be developed to determine available safe on-rope time (ASOT). Intersample differences in ASOT time and the reliability of the ropes will be computed from this data. Finally, the battery of tests will be repeated for a series of ropes with different technologies to improve thermal properties of commercially available ropes.

Projected Results and Conclusions

The research team will develop and validate standardized tests to quantify the strength of escape rope systems deployed at elevated temperatures and with sharp bends and provide a reliable measure of the time available for rescue using these escape rope systems. Methods will be developed to reduce the loss of rope strength at high temperatures. Expected results include: 1) strength of escape rope systems will decrease dramatically as temperature is increased, 2) strength of escape rope systems will decrease dramatically as the bend radius decreases, and 3) available safe on-rope time for the escape rope systems will decrease dramatically as the temperature increases. This research will validate the need for escape rope testing under conditions that accurately and reliably replicate the emergency service environments. This research will provide the fire service with data regarding likely service limitations of escape rope systems, and will be in a form that can be utilized by standard-making organizations, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) technical committee evaluating changes to NFPA 1983, Standard on Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services.

Last Updated: 
07/09/2015 - 16:24