BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ZEPHINIE ESCAPE CHUTE
1968 - A DISASTROUS FIRE STARS AN INVENTOR THINKING.
May 22, 1967, in Brussels, Belgium was the locale of a fire in a
department store of only three stories that killed 322 people. The only
evacuation equipment used by the fire fighters was dozens of common
ladders obviously inefficient for that purpose. In the 1960's and still
now, it remain virtually the same apparatus since its invention in the
Gerard Zephinie worked about the problem, since the age of
sixteen he had filled for patent of invention, at the age of twenty-five
having already since 9 years the hard experience of the inventions'
His first invention patented was a safety device.
It was an
Ultrasonic horn for vehicles, only audible inside the vehicle. The system
also including an anti collision warning in case of limited visibility.
The Doppler effect applied to aerial use of ultrasonic waves was a new
idea at that time. Other interesting invention will not be commented
17 years old Zephinie’s ideas have been collected 1961 by Admiral
Rickover scientific assistants and officially registered in the Pentagon’s
He was asked to join the Marine to get quickly the US citizenship for
later have the clearance to works on classified subject for the US Navy.
Zephinie asked for a grant to join the MIT and later works for the Navy.
Citizenship was the problem.
In December 1958, the USRR government offered to the yet 15 years old,
Zephinie to join the Leningrad Institute of Physic with the status of
privileged citizen of the USRR.
I refused, says Zephinie, adding, because intoxicated since my child age
by the Americana dream! Benjamin Franklin remains my closer spiritual
associated since the age of twelve, for that reason I will always fight
for an idea of America, fitting to a dream that reality tend increasingly
Since age of ten, I experienced living in many countries building a
reality of been a citizen of the world.
Zephinie follows: the theme of this
research was a unique opportunity to make good use of my inventiveness for
a humanitarian service. Particularly the handicapped and the elderly
persons will find advantage.
I have worked out a dozen of concepts; some among those having been
unselected, will be patented as a novelty by others over 20 years later.
The different designs were processed trough critical analysis design
review methods to select simplest and most efficient design.
The selected solution was the more elegant and simple solution. Instate to
use a rope and friction device, let put the people inside the rope!
A cable and a tube would have an equivalent quantity of fibers for similar
strength. The use of friction from the all of the device having a 180
centimeter of perimeter instate of the 4 centimeter exterior perimeter of
a rope, will makes the difference!
Compared, the diameters ratio gives up 45 times. Ease, safety efficiency
are infinitely improved. A patent was filled to the French Patent Office.
A research over hundred years international patents history on the subject
having already confirmed that the solution was new, the opinion of the
fire authorities was a priority.
The Commandant Etienne, chief engineer of the research department of the
fire fighter of Paris shall be the first to evaluate the invention. The
chance to meet first with this exceptional man, will give me the
primordial moral support to fight for years against the prejudicial
opinion of the national firefighter organization.
Command Etienne told me: "I am sure you are in the right track for
the emergency evacuation solution, but my thirty years of experience with
the conservative corporation can tell: ten years would past before the
profession accept the fact. Don't give up. They are not bad peoples. Just
the way they are.
Unfortunately this exceptional French engineer and firefighter went in to
retirement that same month and will die prematurely.
Cd. Etienne had spent most of his life struggling against the conservative
limitation of his colleagues, pioneering the advantages of venting
enclosed places in the fire fighting process, and the inventor of the
Hydro-Venturi smoke's evacuator.
1968-1973 -- YEARS OF REJECTION.
French fire authorities rejected the ZEC as unfeasible. They would say: if
any of many solutions invented over a hundred years period, has worked, it
is because is impossible.
On the negative recommendation of the fire fighters, the system was also
rejected by the French safety industry.
During these years, tragic fires continued to make headlines. In 1972, Sao
Paulo, Brazil experienced a fire with hundreds of casualties, most of whom
could not evacuate the structure. In Paris simultaneously, six concerned
people, full of faith but with little financial backing, formed an
association. All of them, including Zephinie at this time, were involved
in communication or/and marketing activities.
Their object: to prove the effectiveness of the ZEC by informing the
public. To motive the public opinion interest against the bad will of the
1973 -- REDEFINING THE TECHNOLOGY.
After testing the result of the first concept including one sleeve.
Zephinie redesigned the system in a two concentric sleeve, using the new
aromatic polymer created by Dupont de Nemours. The strength of the sleeve
supporting the load could reach 60.000 lb. if necessary.
The most important contribution to architectural design will remain the
Zephinie's invention of the multi entry concept, achieving the possibility
of evacuation from any floor of whatever is the height of a building. The
multi entry installation can be protected for hour lasting fire and smoke
protection including water cooling of the shaft if necessary. Voice and
video control are also included. This concept shall prevail as a basic
standard for the future.
The ZEC-ME focused at terrorist obliging evacuation, including biologic
attack via central air conditioning system is considered in the 1974
As result the ZEC-ME present protection option superior to NFPA's code
stairways protection standards.
The integration in the design installation of most advanced fire
protection enclose compliant with the NFPA standards about high-rise
building exit stairway differentiate the ZEC of known escape chute
category since 1974.
The ZEC-ME model is in fact technically a standardized NFPA's code exit
stairway with the difference of using a ZEC chute instate classic
The spectacular ZEC's advantages was and remains: 10 times less used space
than a stairway, effortless evacuation including of handicapped persons,
no practical difference between three or three hundred floors evacuation.
Those facts were not scientifically challengeable in regards of whatever
fire engineering norms. So the ZEC was and remains the only available
option to avoid massacred in circumstances like on Sep.11
Unexpectedly those facts will not create interest in behave of the US
public safety but a systematic and tenacious boycott leaded by few but
extremely powerful particulars interests related with the safety business
in the USA.
The supposed motivation was to preserve sort term important profits that
could be disturbed by arrival of a new technology.
All concentrated and specialized industrial sectors are subject of such
phenomena in the industrialized world. It requires 20 years of
monopolistic obvious activities to activate anti-trust safeguard in the
The cost of the industrial development of the invention was far beyond the
financial recourse of the Evacuation Vertical Zephinie association. To
find sponsors was the only solution left to Zephinie.
In Geneva the scientific department of Dupont European operations provided
first the Nomex material and later the Kevlar, the very first available in
In London Zephinie meet with the chairman of the board of Courtauld Ltd,
the second major textiles Group of England, who makes the decision? The
access to the chair was possible thank to the efforts of an exceptional
bright man Claude Depau working for the Courtauld out of the
nineteen-century vertical hierarchy.
The middle management having made a barricade to the project.
Generous assistance from the following public spirited group joined the
association in their cause:
Courtauld, Ltd. (Great Britain)
The Textile Institute of France.
Dupont de Nemours, Corp. (United States)
Tissaver S.A. (France)
Thank to close collaboration of Zephinie and the sponsors; the technology
for manufacturing the ZEC was developed in only six months.
1973 -- FIRST PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION.
The first demonstration of the ZEC was scheduled for November 1973, to be
an exclusive of the major French newspaper France soir and Channel 2 of
the French television. However, on October 22 a high-rise building fire in
Bogotá, Colombia, with great loss of life, provided a topical reminder,
and Channel 2 decided to show the demonstration immediately. Within a few
hours, commander Riou, had gathered a group of high-ranking fire officers
to view the demonstration and give their comments. Colonel Jean Riou, was
the editor of Fire review (la revue du feu) a conservative person, but
honest enough to admit that the EVZ advantages was an evidence.
Col. Riou became a member of the board of EVZ France Company.
Later his position became extremely strange: He never informed Zephinie of
the existence of the NY Local Law # 5 political controversy.
After reporting the positive presentation of the EVZ development at the US
Nation Fire Chief conference of 1974, he will say that high-rise building
has not to be evacuated two years later. He was an honorary member of the
NYFD and a 30 years old friend of NY fire Commissioner O'Hagan and lien
officer for many years between the NY and Paris fire departments.
A CONSERVATIVE GENERAL MAKES A BLOCKADE!
In fact the actual general commander of French firefighter, General
Ferauge had refused several time to come to observe the invention at the
invitation of The Evacuation Verticale Zephinie (EVZ) Company by the
intermediary of Colonel Riou.
To be obliged by the presence of the major mass media of France to behold
a demonstration, make him very angry.
General Ferauge, forbid to all present fire officers, to use the EVZ
The Colonel Gers, future General in charge of the national organization,
would pass over General Ferauge order and use the chute publicly.
Twenty million television viewers could watch--for the first time men,
women, grand father and grand daughter aged only of four, and many
children descending from heights in complete comfort and safety.
The General Commander, who had previously rejected the ZEC idea as
impossible to achieve, was forced to admit to the mass audience that the
system worked. He said, lamentably: that works yes, that works, staring at
the evidence. However he said, officially.. that does not exist! The NYFD
will able keep similar position during 25 years because any public
demonstration in NY will ever put they position under public opinion
As a result, many fire fighters and government officials became convinced
of the ZEC's effectiveness.
However, the limitation of the general has been underestimated. In an
administrative standpoint and personal prejudice, the ZEC was nonexistent,
even illegal, and those of firefighter who finally sought to conduct tests
were prohibited by the General from doing so.
The invention also in France has being subject for years of irrational and
unfair opposition from a minority of fire officers, particularly those who
was convinced that other solution than stairways was impossible to
achieve, or just no evacuation at all was the best solution for high rise
building. For having said. For years that practical evacuation was
impossible, the evidence was very and still is hard to swallow to many.
Ego motivation or conflicts of interests are human constant against
innovation. The history of safety technologies shows many examples of 20
to 40 years delay for the general acceptation of demonstrated safety
Aerial Platform first invented and promoted by an American Fire officer
have been subject of irrational rejection for years.
A top officer of the National Head Quarter commented to Zephinie in 1977,
We Know that the Aerial Platform in most case, is far more efficient and
all will agree and that, but they still buy the old ladder!
The impasse was finally solved by the administratively independent French
Navy. Admiral Vasilieff ordered extensive test under fire conditions and
personally supervised the demonstrations. Evacuation test after dropping
the ZEC from helicopters was performed. The results were positive.
1974 -- YEARS OF DEMONSTRATIONS.
In March an official demonstration, sponsored by Mr. Pierre Aube,
representing the architects' profession with the French government, was
attended by 300 influential guests. Many were government observers who had
come simply to watch the test fail. Seven volunteers planned to
participate in the 330 foots descent. Enthusiasm carried the day, and 180
guests became volunteers. The climatic descent of the day was performed by
one crippled guest, Who, with a leg in a cast and crutches in hand,
descended the distance of 25 floors in less than one minute, completely
unaided. (That demonstration was made under the command of Col. Riou)
Forty journalists attended the closing press conference, which lasted more
than an hour. The even were covered in more than 60 countries. In the
following months, 27 requests for live demonstrations were received. (At
the time, however, there was neither a product to sell nor organization
and funding enough to respond.)
In April, the Belgian authorities enthusiastically received a public
In May, public showing was given at the Paris International Fair under the
auspices of the French Naval Fire Fighters. Almost one million spectators
witnessed trial runs by 15000 volunteers who descended from a five-story
tower. Among the volunteers was the first blind volunteer, the first
octogenarian, and two dogs carried in the arms of their masters.
Understandably, public response was overwhelming. The authorities were
thus forced to treat the problem of evacuation seriously.
During the year, the Israeli government placed the first order for a
mobile platform fire fighting installation.
Rohr industries, Corp. of California also decided to use the ZEC for their
Las Vegas Mini-Cab monorail project.
The Evacuation Vertical Zephinie France S.A. has been founded by a team of
entrepreneurs in theirs twenties. Zephinie was the older with 29 years and
having yet 13 years of experience in the struggle of the invention
business, and beside experience in industrial and international business
Mr. Achilles Peretti chairman of the national Assembly (house of
representatives) has become the most prestigious shareholder of EVZ
Mr. Perrault Pradier retired prefect of the French Republic and
Extraordinary Ambassador of the General De Gaulle offered to take the
honorary presidency of EVZ France, S.A.
1975 -- Year of acceptance
Early in the year, agreements were reached in Barcelona, Spain on
licensing and development. Spanish fire fighters were the firsts to accept
the new concept without restriction. Then the Belgian Social Security
administration installed the ZEC in their offices.
SOFINOVA, S.A., a holding corporation representing 14 major European Banks
awarded a financial grant to EVZ FRANCE, S.A. for having build up national
recognition for their activity in an only two years time.
Finally in December, the French interior minister legalized distribution
within France. Shortly after, the firm Ascenter Otis, a subsidiary of
United Technologies, a major corporation of the United States, was
licensed to manufacture and sell the ZEC in France.
The system being committed to public use, in addition governmental
certification, the public has to accept the system, to be informed and
prepare to use it.
Hundred of thousand of volunteers including Blinds, motor handicapped,
mental retarded, very hold persons, etc., did help to set up the Know how
1976 -- Spain.
The Zardoya Otis of Madrid, also a subsidiary of United Technologies,
bought the license and took over the patent from the original Spanish
1977 -- The ZEC making 100 times faster evacuation by fire ladder, most
fire departments acquire the ZEC in France and Spain to improve fire
ladder and rescue platform evacuation performances.
The French Minister of the Interior approved the "Evacuation vertical
Zephinie-EVZ" as rescue equipment with his official finding that it
was 100 times more effective than the ladder for evacuation, and increased
the effectiveness of the aerial platform by a factor of ten. The Paris
fire department was equipped with the ZEC. The new escape technology was
also incorporated in the program of the National fire academy with the
participation of Mr. Zephinie.
1978 -- Popular and official recognition
It is important to mention that France since the XVI century keep a
particular tradition of government control centralization.
A new safety product like the ZEC is first authorized for use by the
Ministry of Interior civilian defense department at national level and
later every Ministry proceed to additional technical certification to
authorize the official purchase of a product.
The ZEC have official reference of installations in all the French's
Ministries jurisdictions and corresponding certifications. The Health
Ministry tests lasted two years and thousands of real patients have
volunteered including mental retarded persons. Millions of dollars of
man/hours cost have been required by the multiples official tests.
The ZEC evacuation technique having not precedent and involving official
responsibility to authorize its use leaded to the most thoroughly tests of
the product in France.
The words "Manche d'Evacuation or Manche d'Evacuation Verticale
" " Vertical Evacuation sleeve" as could be the translation
in English, has been officially added to the French lexical database. The
other escape chutes work on inclination effect. This is an essential
difference regarding standard fire code protection application to other
escape chute but to the ZEC vertical evacuation "sleeve".
Obviously the NFPA keep ignoring for decades the existence of the Zephinie
the fire code standard enclosed vertical escape sleeve. That allows the
NFPA to rightly officially state about escape chute devises : … They are
not permitted, nor recommended by U.S.-based codes for commercial and
public buildings. Such devices do not come close to the level of
protection provided by the other code-mandated features.
This answer is given when a American citizen ask: Should my building have
any type of exterior escape device?
The ZEC-ME is designed as a structure integrated escape devise that make
irrelevant comparison with exterior escape devices anyway.
US fire official that has declared in 2002 that the ZEC was "improved
has best" to Miss Rachel Kovner of the new born NY Sun newspaper, she
is in fact the only American journalist having had the courage, to mention
the existence of the ZEC since last October, show that an astonishing
ignorance of the subject doesn't impede pontificating statement.
The French National Mountain Rescue Service approved the ZEC. The National
Secretary of the French Merchant Marine requested special adaptation of
the ZEC for naval evacuation.
The French Ministry Exterior Commerce had used the ZEC as an example of
successful innovative product development for the production of an
international promotional video.
A comedies movie was produced using the ZEC invention as the subject of
the movie and the prestigious BBC's program THE WORLD OF TOMORROW,
broadcasted a 30 minutes program about the ZEC.
The support of the mass media has been has been a major support for the
public information about the use of the ZEC in case of emergency. In the
first ten years the French National Television has shown 52 public events
of use of the ZEC generally a minister of the government or a candidate
running for election showing the good example).
An official presentation to the President Giscard d'Estain, president of
the French Republic, was made in head quarter of Paris fire department. An
official photography shows the general having done his best to sunk the
invention, proudly making the presentation to the president. C'est la vie…
Colonel Riou, who was the member of several Franco-American fire
associations American safety industries in France, had reported to the
American colleagues during an international conference in New York that
the ZEPHINIE ESCAPE CHUTE EFFECTIVELY WORKS.
Unfortunately the history of the following years will prove that Col. Riou
commentary will have the outcome of a WARNING THEM OF A PRAISE. (See
comments or where is the real ball Game)