Friday, December 12, 2008

Someone Made My Invention

A long time ago, I had an idea to generate electricity by harnessing the kinetic energy of people moving through doors. I didn't patent it or nuthin' but I did eventually write about it in a blog-post here. And now, a little over a year later, the thing is for reals! Woo hoo! Of course, it took the Dutch to actually make the thing. We really need to take a page from their book. Several pages really. Maybe the whole book. I, personally, would like to see our 'New Amsterdam' adopt many more of the ways of original Amsterdam. It would be better for all concerned.

Anyway, seeing as how the nifty door thing has magically appeared in the real world (or, the Netherlands anyway) about a year after I wrote about it, here's another thing that really needs to exist, which I don't have the resources to make myself, but which the Dutch could certainly show us the way toward creating/using on a large scale (more of a technique than a "thing") and if they do it a year from now, well, better late than never...

This idea came to me on September 11th, 2001. As you may recall... there were these two really tall skyscrapers, with massive fires raging on upper floors. Firefighters who arrived on the scene went into the buildings from the ground, dragging their gear up the endless flights of stairs, climbing against the tide of people fleeing, which must have slowed everybody down in both directions. They helped many people escape the towers but continuing upward, and upward to put the fires out proved futile. The buildings collapsed. They all died -- over 300 of the bravest individuals our society is ever likely to produce, faced with an impossible task which became a suicide mission, all because of an inappropriate response to a specific problem. How do you put out a massive fire on an upper floor of a skyscraper, hundreds of feet in the air? Conventional firefighting techniques were never intended for such a thing. Men carrying hose from a ground-based pump, up 90 flights of stairs -- simply not right for the job. It's not a matter of good or bad. Only a matter of finding the tool or technique that best fits the situation. You don't use a claw hammer to remove a splinter from your finger and you don't use tweezers to pull a nail out of a board.

The right tool for this particular job would have been a small fleet of water-tank equipped helicopters.

Now, obviously, these already exist. Planes too. They are used primarily to help put out forest fires, wildfires in places with no fire hydrants, etc. They fill their tanks by scooping from lakes, rivers or the ocean, then fly over the fire and drop tons of water quickly. They can also drop other types of chemical fire-retardants which, as I understand it, would've been better than water for combatting the WTC fires, since they were caused by jet-fuel. Still, water would've been better than nothing, as it could have dissipated much of the heat which is assumed to have caused the failure of the steel support beams of the towers -- unless you believe, as some video evidence seems to suggest, that there were explosive charges already in place throughout the buildings.

Regardless. Why doesn't NYC have, say, ten of these firefighting aircraft? Five even. Last I checked, this town, with so many especially tall structures, is built on a bunch of little islands. Lots of water within easy reach of just about all the skyscrapers. It would be perfectly easy to deploy such helicopters to any part of town, at a moment's notice, all filled up and ready to go.

Perhaps even better than having them repeatedly scoop up water, fly to the scene and drop it, the helicopters could be equipped with extremely powerful on-board pumps and massively long hoses that could unspool and either attach to a hydrant, or simply dip an anchored end into the river. You suck water up continuously and spray it at the fire without ever having to stop to refill. If it's the dead of winter and the river is iced over, you build a heating element into the anchor end of the hose, melt your way through the ice to the water underneath, and pump away.

This is too obvious not to exist. It might be expensive to create, maintain and deploy. It would require teams of pilots and firefighters with highly specialized training, which, again, would be costly. But compared to the loss of life and property of a 9/11? A bargain at any price! Without it, the next massive fire that takes place on a high floor of a skyscraper will be just as impossible to counter as the WTC fire was, and more brave men and women will die needlessly. But with such an obvious system in place, they would at least have a fighting chance.

Look for a Dutch company to start up such a program in a year or two.

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