Thursday, 14 January 2010

MACHINE OF THE DAY: Inflatable jacks—perfect for earthquake rescue

Our ‘machine of the day’ today has to be the amazing rescue air bag. An inflatable jack.  So simple, yet such an effective way to rescue people trapped under wrecked cars or buried under tons of rubble.

Just like they are in Haiti (where the only good news today is that their tax office now lies in ruins).


capt_photo_1263417015962-1-0 It’s especially effective if a building’s floors have “pancaked”--when the columns collapse in a quake, and the floors fall, sickeningly, in sequence, one on top of another.  With people trapped in between. Just like that pile of rubble on the right that used to be a six-storey building.

But you’re no less trapped under the one below.


capt_eef7439a8ab54a728e1d6f634dc6dc67_aptopix_haiti_earthquake_xra110 Instead of using your regular hydraulic or scissors jack to lift the rubble (with their point-loads and inherent instability0 or the agony of hacking through layers rubble with pick and hammer, these inflatable babies can be slid underneath and inside the layers and easily inflated: safely spreading the load as they lift so they don’t  disturb the debris any father, or set up dangerous new load paths to endanger other folk who are trapped. 

You can lift gently, simply, and always be controlled and stable—even during aftershocks.  The bag is always its own “safety mat.”

Brilliant!  The mind’s ingenuity applied to the rescue of human life.

I hope there are truck loads of ‘em on their way to Haiti right now.

NB: I can’t finds any clips showing the inflatable jacks in use in earthquake rescues.  I guess everybody’s always too busy.  But here’s a few clips showing ‘the power of the bag’ for lifting vehicles.  You’ll have to extrapolate.


As you see, they come in all sizes, large and small. And they can be used so delicately, they’re just the thing for moving your Polaris rocket:



  1. A closely related device is the humble automotive tyre. It's an inflatable structure without which the car and the truck would be very difficult to operate and likely much more expensive.


  2. Sadly I doubt Haiti has many of these. However, Mother Theresa visiting the country when the Duvalier clan were running it as a personal fiefdom of murder and kleptocracy no doubt did the place a great deal of good.


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