End of fire poles

Fire poles, invented in the 1870s, are becoming a thing of the past. Why? Liability, of course! Already, Seattle has banned fire poles after a firefighter fell and suffered brain injuries last year, resulting in a lawsuit that was settled for $13 million. New fire stations are mostly single-story, contain multiple staircases, or, in some cases, slides. From Time:

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While some new stations in the U.S. still include poles, the National Fire Protection Association aims to change that. "Fire departments are questioning the need for a fire pole and going with regular stairs," says Ken Willette, a retired fire chief in Massachusetts who now manages the association's public fire-protection division. "If there was a fire pole, we would want it enclosed so nobody stumbles into it in the middle of the night..."

"The pole is something we associated with as kids," says Scott Wolf, a partner at the architectural firm Miller Hull, which designed Seattle's Lake City station that opened in June and another station set to open in the Greenwood neighborhood in 2011. "But the pole has been one of the biggest sources of firefighter injury."

No matter the conduit, getting firefighters to the equipment as quickly and directly as possible remains critical. Susi Rosenthal, an assistant fire chief in Seattle who oversees the city's facilities, says poles have always been a personal decision anyway. "I always prefer stairs," the 30-year veteran says. "As long as you get there at the same time, it doesn't matter. In my experience, the younger you are, the more likely you are to slide a pole."

"Sorry, Kids. Fire Stations Are Ditching Fire Poles"

(photo: "firepole at Eugene, Oregon firestation #1 open house" by drcorneilus)