If a fire starts on a high floor in a skyscraper, there's a good chance it could cut off the means of escape for everybody on the floors above. But a Dutch company wants to solve this problem with technology that's not dissimilar to what stuntmen use to stay safe.
It's called the Evacuator. Installed near windows in skyscrapers, this custom-built device houses a simple cable and pulley system. In the event of an emergency, occupants simply climb into the Evacuator's harnesses and slowly lower themselves down the side of the building. It looks almost exactly like repelling, except the rate of descent is controlled. This is a good idea, especially since you can count on people evacuating a burning building being a little bit panicked.
The steel cable approach won't work for every building. For now, the Evacuator can only work on buildings that are less than 1,000 feet. And obviously strapping on harnesses and jumping out of a window is going to be pretty scary for your random office worker. For now, the makers of the Evacuator are targeting their product towards workers on high flying construction sites, oil rigs, and wind turbines.
That said, this is an idea other companies are already pursuing. An Israeli company recently unveiled a similar product that comes in the form of a backpack. It has the advantage of being a fair bit smaller than a giant motor you bolt to the wall, but at the cost of asking scared office workers to find their own anchor points. And if all this sounds very scary, you might just consider staying close to the ground. [Evacuator via Freshome]