UW-Stout News Story

Students design evacuation harness, take second in contest

November 5, 2012

How could someone with a disability, especially in a wheelchair, escape a life-threatening situation? A group of UW-Stout apparel, design and development students may have found a new answer.

Five students designed the Emergency Evacuation Harness, a device that allows an able-bodied person to carry a disabled person away from danger. Their design took second place in the international 2012 Safety Products Student Design Challenge. It will be on display at this week’s Industrial Fabrics Association International expo in Boston and featured in IFAI publications and on its website.

Annie Sorcic carries Natalie Meurer to demonstrate the Emergency Evacuation Harness. Although devices called rigid evacuation chairs exist to help those in wheelchairs — some were used to help people trapped in the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center — the team researched a lighter, less expensive, more portable alternative.

Someone in a wheelchair could keep the fold-up Emergency Evacuation Harness with them at all times. It functions like a backpack. “Someone else puts on the harness. The disabled person is placed in it and can be carried out of the building,” said Daniel Cole, one of the team members.

The harness, a prototype, is made from heavy canvas. It includes a fabric seat, back support, leg enclosures, two shoulder straps and buckles.

The team created the product in fall 2011 as part of the Functional Clothing Design course taught by Gindy Neidermyer. “It was a long design process,” said Cole, of Menomonie.

Team members received a trophy and cash award. Other members are Jessica Koch, of Oregon; Natalie Meurer, of Fond du Lac; Maggie Rohs, of Mukwonago; and Annie Sorcic, of Woodbury, Minn.

In the 2011 contest a UW-Stout team took first place with the Underground Mine Suit, a safety suit for miners.

For more information about the Bachelor of Science degree in apparel, design and development go here.

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