Popular Science:

As the 9/11 inferno unfolded on television, one question kept dogging Kevin Stone: Why weren’t the people trapped in the World Trade Center able to make their way to safety?

“I said to myself, This is crazy,” recalls Stone, an orthopedic surgeon and seasoned inventor in San Francisco. “There should be a better way to exit a skyscraper when something like this happens.”

Stone found all the existing systems for rescuing people from high places to be flawed or impractical, so he designed a device based on a fishing reel, a simple harness that would lower people steadily from skyscraper heights on a secure length of cord.

The Rescue Reel affords people an easy way to engineer their own escape: All users have to do is open a file-drawer-size container and hook a Kevlar cord to a secure object or connection point (such as between a door and its frame).

Then they step directly into the one-size-fits-all harness and rappel through an open window up to 100 stories from the ground. No special training is needed, and the entire sequence could take less than a minute.

Photo by Popular Science.

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