At some oil refineries, workers eat lunch in something that resembles a cross between a hangar and a circus tent. Despite its bouncy-house look, it’s the safest place for them to be during an explosion.
And they have Harold Warner to thank. For the past decade, the Canadian entrepreneur has been manufacturing shelters with flexible, air-filled walls that protect not only oil workers, but also soldiers and others in blast-prone environments.
His first shelters, created for outdoor events, were basically tied-down balloons made to withstand strong winds. But after an explosion at a Texas City refinery killed 15 people in 2005, an engineer called him, wondering whether Warner's shelters might have saved lives. Two years later, at a military site, they tested the idea. The equivalent of 2,000 kilograms (a little over 2 tons) of TNT detonated about 100 paces away from one of the shelters. The tent withstood the explosion’s shock wave, which was roughly 1.5 times greater than what would cause most residential buildings to collapse.
How It Works