The present application claims priority from the U.S. provisional patent application entitled “Secure Access Port Cover System,” as filed on 3 Sep. 2008 and assigned App. No. 61/093,906, and from the U.S. provisional patent application of the same title, as filed on 20 Nov. 2008 and assigned App. No. 61/116,434.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention generally relates to access ports, such as manholes or other underground storage tank (UST) access ports, and particularly relates to a system for securing such access ports.
Underground storage tanks (USTs), such as fuel storage tanks at fuel depots and commercial filling stations, often have associated security and safety issues relating to their accessibility. For the typical UST, a manhole or other port provides access to maintenance personnel and the like. These access ports represent a key consideration in maintaining tank security, and in protecting against theft of the stored fuel or other liquid.
A secure access port cover system comprises a cover and an access tool. The cover includes a base and one or more lids that are locked and unlocked via manipulation of a mechanical locking system housed within the interior of the base. A relatively small control port in the base provides access to the internal locking system. However, a specially adapted access tool is required to manipulate the internal locking system and move it between its locked and unlocked positions. Correspondingly, the access tool in one or more embodiments is a restricted-use item and not readily available to the public at large. Because the internal locking system can be manipulated only with the access tool, those not in possession of the access tool are unable to unlock the cover's lid(s) and unauthorized access to the underlying manhole or other access port is thereby prevented.
As a non-limiting example, the secure access port cover system contemplated herein is advantageously used to protect fueling station manholes. Different sizes of cover systems are used to protect different sizes of manholes, and it is contemplated that a range of cover system sizes will be offered for a variety of fueling station and other uses.
Of course, the present invention is not limited to the above features and advantages. Indeed, those skilled in the art will recognize additional features and advantages upon reading the following detailed description, and upon viewing the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is perspective view of one embodiment of a secure access port cover system, shown with the lid closed.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a secure access port cover system that differs primarily from that shown in FIG. 1 by its inclusion of more than one lid.
FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the secure access port cover system introduced in FIG. 1, shown with the lid open.
FIG. 4 is plan view of the secure access port cover system introduced in FIG. 1, shown with the lid open.
FIG. 5 is a side view of the secure access port cover system introduced in FIG. 1, shown with the lid open.
FIG. 6 is a partial perspective view of the cover portion of the secure access port cover system, wherein one embodiment of an internal locking system is shown within the cover base.
FIG. 7 provides the same perspective view as shown in FIG. 6, with the added detail of depicting engagement of the internal locking system via the access tool.
FIGS. 8 and 9 are side views of one embodiment of the internal locking system, respectively depicting locked and unlocked positions.
FIG. 10 is a partial perspective view of the cover portion of the secure access port cover system, wherein another embodiment of an internal locking system is shown within the cover base.
FIG. 11 is a partial perspective view of the cover portion of the secure access port cover system, wherein another embodiment of an internal locking system is shown within the cover base.
FIG. 12 is a perspective view of sectional pieces that are used in one or more embodiments to fabricate bases of desired dimensions for use in differently sized secure access port cover systems.
FIG. 13 is a side view of a longer section of stock material, e.g., plate steel, from which base sections of desired length may be cut.
FIGS. 14 and 15 are partial side views of a base section, wherein the embodiment shown in FIG. 14 depicts a base configuration that extends below grade, and wherein the embodiment shown in FIG. 15 surface-mounts and does not extend below grade.
FIGS. 16 and 17 are side and front views, respectively, of an embodiment of the cover wherein hinge pedestals provide enhanced lid support and allow for the lid and its hinge assembly, to be conveniently removed from and installed to the base's cover as a removable assembly.
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a secure access port cover system 10 (“system 10”), as contemplated herein. It will be appreciated that the drawing is not necessarily to scale, and that the illustrated configuration is given by way of non-limiting example.
The illustrated system 10 comprises a cover 12, which fits over and secures an access hole or port (not shown), and an access tool 14, which is intended for use by authorized personnel. The access tool 14 provides the ability to open, close, lock, and unlock the cover 12. Note that as used herein the terms “access hole” and “access port” should be given broad construction, and are meant to cover essentially any type of access opening, hatchway, tube, port, etc. With this broad meaning, it should be understood that the system 10 can be adapted to provide a secure access cover for restricting access to a broad range of openings, such as manholes, maintenance ports, viewing ports, etc., as might be found in a variety of commercial and industrial environments.
In a particularly advantageous but still non-limiting application, the system 10 provides restricted access to fueling station manholes, such as are commonly used for accessing underground storage tanks and related equipment. In this context, and in other contexts, the system 10 can be manufactured or otherwise fabricated in a range of sizes, to fit various manhole opening sizes and configurations. Moreover, the system 10 can be configured to have multiple secure openings, such that a single, multiple opening cover can be used to secure two or more adjacent manholes.
With such applications in mind, the illustrated cover 12 includes a base 16 and a lid 18, which may be hinged or otherwise movably attached to the base 16. The base 16 may be integrally formed or formed by welding or otherwise joining separate pieces together. A control port 20 in the base 16 provides access to an internal locking system (not shown) that prevents opening of the lid 18 when the locking system is locked. The control port 20 includes a cylindrical key lock 22 in one or more embodiments, for added security. In such embodiments, the cylindrical key lock 22 must be unlocked and removed, to gain access to the internal locking system. In one or more other embodiments, the cylindrical key lock is omitted and the control port 20 simply is an opening into the interior of the system 10.
More particularly, the control port 20 is positioned or otherwise configured to provide access to the internal locking system via insertion of the access tool 14. Correspondingly, one end of the access tool 14 includes a lock engagement head 24 that is specially configured to engage with the internal locking system, for locking and unlocking the lid 18. Advantageously, the configuration of the internal locking system is such that only the specially adapted lock engagement head 24 allows for locking and unlocking control.
The other end of access tool 14 comprises a lifting tip 26, which may be formed from metal or other suitably strong and durable material. In one or more embodiments, the lifting tip 26 is “tee” shaped, and, correspondingly, the lid 18 includes a lifting slot 28 that is sized for insertion of the lifting tip 26. With this configuration, the operator orients the lifting tip 26 with the long axis of the lifting slot 28, inserts the lifting tip 26 into the lifting slot 28, and then rotates the shaft of the access tool 14 ninety degrees (approximately), so that the long axis of the lifting tip 26 is perpendicular to the lifting slot 28. This orientation allows the lifting tip 26 to engage the underside of the lid 18, so that the operator can open the lid 18 by pulling upward on the access tool 14, assuming that the lid 18 is unlocked. (FIG. 2 illustrates a similar embodiment of the system 10, but where the cover 12 includes two lids 18, in a side-by-side configuration.)
Referring again to FIG. 1, in at least one embodiment, the access tool 14 includes a flexible section 30, e.g., a length of steel cable, which terminates in the lifting tip 26. Inclusion of the flexible section 30 increases operator convenience and comfort by allowing a more comfortable range of angles between the access tool 14 and the lid 18 as the lid 18 is moved between its open and closed positions.
FIG. 3 illustrates one embodiment of the system 10, with the lid 18 shown in its open position. In this view, one sees one embodiment of the aforementioned internal locking system, here designated by reference number 40. In this embodiment, the internal locking system 40 engages or otherwise interlocks with tabs 42, which are welded or otherwise fastened to the underside of the lid 18. Each tab 42 includes a hole 44 through which an element of the internal locking system 40 projects when the lid 18 is locked. The operator manipulates—i.e., locks and unlocks—the internal locking system 40 by inserting the lock engagement head 24 of the access tool 14 through the control port 20.
One also sees a stop 46 fixed to the underside of the lid 18 and positioned below the lifting slot 28. The stop 46 facilitates use of the access tool 14 in lifting the lid, by limiting the insertion depth of the lifting tip 28, which, for example, prevents the lifting tip 28 from being inserted too deeply and thereby prevents it from becoming entangled in the internal locking system 40.
Further, one sees that the lid 18 includes a lip 48 around all or at least a portion of its perimeter. Preferably, in embodiments that include it, the lip 48 runs around all but the hinged side of the lid 18. The lip 48, which is vertically oriented when the lid 18 is in its closed position, prevents prying or other tampering that might be attempted by persons not in possession of a properly configured access tool 14. Correspondingly, the interior perimeter of the base 16 may include or be formed as a horizontal lip 50, on which the lip 48 of the lid 18 rests when the lid 18 is closed.
The base 16 may further include a second interior lip 52 included on one or more interior sides of the base 16. This second interior lip is lower within the base 16 and it includes one or more holes 54, for use in bolting or otherwise anchoring the base 16 to the surface around the manhole or other access opening to be secured by the system 10. Including these interior mounting points enhances the security of the system 10, because the mounting hardware used to anchor the base 16 to the ground or other surface—e.g., a concrete or asphalt pad—is accessible only when the lid 18 is open. One sees the configuration of these one or more interior lips 52 and their included mounting holes 54 more clearly in the plan view of FIG. 4.
Referring again to FIG. 3, at least one such interior lip 52 may include a lid stop 56, to catch the back edge of the lid 18 in its opened position. In this manner, the lid stop 56, which is formed, for example, by welding on a small surface strip. Preferably, the lid stop 56 is positioned to allow the lid 18 to rotate past ninety degrees into its open position, e.g., to 110 degrees. A greater-than-ninety degree open position allows the lid 18 to swing out of the way, and to rest safely in the open position. This configuration is shown by way of non-limiting example in FIG. 5, wherein the angle denotes the angle of the lid 18 (relative to the horizontal) in its fully opened, resting position. Of course, in one or more embodiments, the system 10 includes one or more lid struts, e.g., gas-assisted struts, that bias the lid 18 in the open position. Alternatively, it is also contemplated herein to configure the lid hinge 60 (as shown in FIG. 3) as a torsion-spring assembly, which is useful in providing a biasing force for ease of lid opening and/or to ensure that the lid 18 is prevented from accidentally falling into the closed position.
As for unlocking the lid 18, and for moving it from its closed position to its open position, FIG. 6 provides a perspective view partially illustrating the cover 12, and in particular providing mechanical details for one embodiment of the internal locking system 40. The internal locking system 40 includes an actuator rod 70 with a perpendicularly attached actuator pin 72 that is aligned with the bore of the control port 20, the barrel of which may extend into the interior of the base 16, to ensure that the lock engagement head 24 stays aligned with the actuator pin 72 as the access tool 14 is inserted through the control port 20.
The lock engagement head 24 is formed or machined to have a slotted opening 74 in the circular opening formed at its end, which allows it to slide over the actuator pin 72. By sliding the lock engagement head 24 over the actuator pin 72 and then rotating the actuator tool 14, the actuator pin 72 is captured by an engagement slot 76 formed or machined toward the rear of the slotted opening 74. With the actuator pin 72 thus captured in the lock engagement head 24 of the access tool 14, an operator can lock the lid 18 by pushing the access tool 14 forward (toward the base 16), and can unlock the lid 18 by pulling the access tool 14 rearward (away from the base 16).
Such operation is enabled because the actuator rod 70 is fixed—such as by welding, pinning, or via some other fastening means—to a locking rod 78, which is configured to slide between locked and unlocked positions within the interior of the base 16. That is, the locking rod 78 slides back and forth via pushing and pulling of the access tool 14, which locks and unlocks the lid 18. In particular, pairs of tabs 80 are mounted to one of the interior lips 52 of the base 16—such as by welding, bolting, or otherwise fastening—and these tabs 80 include a lower set of aligned holes 82 through which the locking rod 78 axially slides. The tabs 80 further include an upper set of aligned holes 84, through which locking pins 86 axially slide.
One locking pin 86 slides through each pair of the tabs 80, and each locking pin 86 is mounted to the locking rod 78 via mounts 88. The mounts can be integrally formed as part of the locking pins and the pins/mounts are attached to the locking rod 78 via welding, pinning, bolting, or any suitable fastening means. Regardless, the configuration provides for the locking pins 86 to slide with the locking rod 78. When the locking rod 78 is slid into the locked position, the locking pins 86 project through the aligned holes 84 in their respective tab pairs. Conversely, when the locking rod 78 is slid into the unlocked position, the locking pins 86 are withdrawn from their respective tab pairs, i.e., the locking pins 86 are withdrawn from the aligned holes 84 in the pairs of tabs 80.
With this arrangement, and with momentary reference back to FIG. 3, the tabs 42 attached to the underside of the lid 18 will be understood to align with the gap formed by each pair of tabs 80 fixed to the interior of the base 16. As such, assuming the locking rod 78 is slid to the unlocked position, closing the lid 18 causes the tabs 42 to drop into the gaps between the pairs of tabs 80, such that the holes 44 in the tabs 42 are axially aligned with the holes 84 in the tabs 80. Sliding the locking rod 78 into its locked position therefore causes the locking pins to project through the holes 84 in the tabs 80 and through the holes 44 in the tabs 42, thereby locking the lid 18 down in the closed position.
Assuming an initially closed and locked configuration of the system 10, an operator thus inserts the lock engagement head 24 of the access tool 14 into the control port 20, and presses it forward (into the base 16) until it makes contact with the actuator pin 72. The operator then rotates the access tool 14 until the actuator pin 72 slides into the slot 74 formed in the end of the lock engagement head 24. The operator then pushes the access tool 14 slightly forward and slightly rotates it to capture the actuator pin 72 in the engagement slot 76 formed in the lock engagement head 24 at the rear of the slot 74. This engagement temporarily captures the actuator pin 72 in the lock engagement head 24 and allows the operator to slide the locking pin 78 to its unlocked position by pulling on the access tool 14.
FIG. 7 illustrates the actuator pin 72 engaged by the lock engagement head 24 of the access tool 14, e.g., the drawing illustrates the actuator pin 72 captured within the engagement slot 76 of the lock engagement head 24. Sliding the locking rod 78 to the unlocked position withdraws the locking pins 86 from the tabs 80 of the base 16 and from the aligned tabs 42 of the lid 18, thereby freeing the lid for opening.
For better understanding, FIG. 8 illustrates a detail view of the locked position, wherein one sees a portion of the lid 18 in its closed position, with the underside tabs 42 residing between the respective pairs of the tabs 80 fixed on an interior lip 52 of the base 16. (The angled walls forming the base 16 are omitted from the illustration for a clearer view of the tabs 80, locking rod 78, etc.) One sees that sliding the locking rod 78 rightward in the drawing causes the locking pin 86 to withdraw from the tabs 80 and tab 42, thereby unlocking the lid 18. FIG. 9 provides the same view as FIG. 8, but depicts the unlocked position.
After unlocking the lid 18, the operator slightly rotates the access tool 14 in the opposite direction to disengage the actuator pin 72 from the engagement slot 76 in the lock engagement head 24 of the access tool 14. With the access tool 14 thus disengaged, the operator withdraws it from the control port 20 and then inserts the other end of the access tool 14, i.e., the lifting tip 26 into the lifting slot 28 of the lid 18.
The operator accomplishes this insertion by aligning the long axis of the lifting tip 26 with the long axis of the lifting slot 28. Once the lifting tip 26 is inserted, the operator rotates the access tool 14 ninety degrees, or thereabouts, such that the lifting tip 26, as positioned on the underside of the lid 18, is perpendicular to the lifting slot 28. The operator then opens the lid 18 by pulling up and back on the access tool 14. Once the lid 18 is fully opened, a quick counter rotation of the access tool 14 by the operator allows the lifting tip 26 to be withdrawn from the lifting slot 28.
In another embodiment, shown in FIG. 10, the actuator rod 70 is mounted to the locking rod 78 further away from the control port side of the base 16. Although operation of the system 10 in this configuration is as described above for FIG. 6, placing the actuator rod 70/actuator pin 72 deeper into the interior of the base 16 with respect to the control port 20 makes it harder for unauthorized personnel to tamper with the actuator rod 70/actuator pin 72, and therefore offers enhanced security. In such embodiments, a guide channel or guide rails may be mounted within the interior of the base 16, to provide support and guidance for the extended length of the access tool 14 required in this configuration to reach the actuator pin 72. In the illustration, guide rails 90 are mounted within the interior of the base 16, and provide guidance and support for the access tool 14, thus allowing the operator to easily guide the lock engagement head 24 of the access tool 14 into engagement with the actuator pin 72.
In one or more embodiments, such as shown in FIG. 11, additional security is provided through use of a lock cover 92, which may be rigid, semi-flexible, or flexible. The lock cover 92 covers the actuator rod 70/actuator pin 72 portion of the internal locking system 40. The lock cover 92 hides the configuration of the these elements from casual observation, making it less likely for unauthorized personal to determine how to fashion a facsimile of the access tool 14, and/or to develop strategies for defeating the internal locking system 40.
In another aspect, related to ease of fabrication and flexibility in adapting the system 10 to a variety of manhole or other access port sizes and configurations, FIG. 12 illustrates that the base 16 can be fabricated from individual sections 100 that are cut to desired lengths. (Note that “100” is used commonly to refer to each depicted section, but one section or pairs of sections may have different dimensions, e.g., two long sides and two short sides for rectangular openings.)
Further along these lines, one may stock longer sections of stock plate material 102, which may be cut into desired lengths of side sections 100, and from which corner pieces 104 may be cut. Any given size of square or rectangular opening may be fabricated from appropriate lengths of four side sections 100 and four corner pieces 104. The side sections 100 and corner pieces 104 may be joined together via welding, bolting, clipping, or by some other suitable fastening means.
In another variation, FIG. 14 depicts a portion of the base 16 of the cover 12, wherein the base 16 is formed such that an exterior perimeter of it extends below grade. That is, a perimeter portion 106 of the base 16 may project below the mounting surface (concrete, asphalt, etc.), which further secures the base 16 against prying, and, advantageously, essentially eliminates any problems associated with catching the exterior edges of the base 16 with snowplow blades, etc. One also sees that the interior lip(s) 52 of the base 16 may be anchored to the mounting surface via fasteners 108, e.g., bolts, screws, etc.
Of course, the base 16 may not extend below the mounting surface, such as shown in FIG. 15. The embodiment depicted in FIG. 15 arguably may not be as secure as that shown in FIG. 14, although it is unlikely that the base 16 actually is vulnerable to prying, particularly in embodiments where it is implemented using plate steel of sufficient thickness. However, the illustrated configuration is particularly advantageous for use in retrofitting manholes or other access ports at existing sites, because it does not require cutting concrete, asphalt, or the like, to mount the base 16 of the cover 12. Instead, one simply needs to prep anchor holes in the mounting surface to align with mounting holes 54 in the one or more interior lips 52 within the base 16 (see FIG. 2).
In a further variation, FIGS. 16 and 17 illustrate an embodiment wherein the lid 18 is reinforced against external loads, at least in its closed position. More particularly, hinge pedestals 120 are provided, e.g., as “boxed” metal supports which can be threaded into an embodiment of piano hinge assembly 60, such as introduced in FIG. 3. Particularly, each hinge pedestal 120 includes a fixed portion of the piano hinge tube elements, such that they can be threaded into the piano hinge 60 of the lid 18.
This arrangement allows the hinge pedestals 120 to be attached to the lid 18, before the lid 18 is interconnected with the base 16 of the cover 12. In particularly, the hinge pedestals 120 are inter-threaded as part of the piano hinge assembly 60 of the lid 18, and the resulting overall assembly can be placed into alignment with the base 16 and bolted into hinged connection, e.g., at anchor bolt positions 122 and 124. The resulting structure exhibits improved load bearing performance, as the rearward portion of the lid 18 is, in its closed position, supported against downward deflection by the underlying hinge pedestals 120.
With these and other variations in mind, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention is not limited to the foregoing discussion and accompanying drawings. Instead, the present invention is limited only by the following appended claims and their legal equivalents.