2006_02_12_escape.jpg Today's Times tackles the issue of how exactly one escapes from the top of a Manhattan skyscraper during an emergency. Specifically, the Times looks at an interesting new escape method developed by an Israeli company called Escape Rescue Systems.

Imagine a multicabin elevator made of fabric and stored, folded up like an accordion, atop a busy building's roof. When an alarm is sounded, the fabric is dropped down the building's side where it gradually uncoils. There are now five capsules, strung out in a train and connected by two-inch metal cables to a motor on the roof. As the capsules descend, escaping tenants climb out from their windows and into the machine and are lowered to the street.

The idea is pretty nifty (you can watch computer animations of it here) but don't expect to see cloth elevators sliding down the sides of burning New York City buildings anytime soon. Despite support from City Council members Yvette D. Clarke, Gale A. Brewer and Peter F. Vallone Jr., a pilot program of the device, fully funded by Vornado Realty, was rejected this week by the city.

And yet, we suspect we haven't heard the last of this idea...