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Unlike ordinary flexible fire escapes, the PEARL (Permanent Escape and Rescue Ladder) is guaranteed to be there when it's needed. The recessed steel cabinet that houses the ladder fits between 16-inch on-center 2x4 walls. It requires a finished space beneath the egress window sill that's at least 14 inches high and 161/2 inches wide. According to the maker, the ladder's aluminum rungs can support up to 1,500 pounds. It's available online for $299. Pearl Protected, 800/374-5737, www.pearlprotected.com

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