Confession - since becoming a mom, I tend to play out worst case scenarios like a movie in my head. Maybe it's because I'm a planner by nature or perhaps it's the years of Program Management that has trained me for contingency and mitigation plans.
Whatever it is, it's caused me to consider what we would do if we needed to leave our home from the second story of our house. I won't go into the morbid and sometimes irrational reasons I cooked up in my mind, but the actual need is fairly real and all households should really have a plan beyond tying bed sheets together and slowly lowering themselves along the side of their house, cartoon style.
We haven't had to use it (knock on wood), but in each room upstairs (where our Littles and guests-that-stay knows where) we have the Kidde brand Fire Escape Ladder 25-foot). We have the 25-foot ladder in some rooms because we have some areas where our basement isn't fully underground and therefore we have to contend with nearly 3-stories to come down. Kidde also has a 13-foot ladder, which we also have, if you don't have that issue. If you don't need a full 25-foot ladder, get the 13-foot. It's lighter and will be easier to throw out the window. Less is more in this instance.
Although we haven't had the need to open it, I feel it's important to review the instructions so that we have an idea of what we need to do before we're in the middle of a chaotic situation.
Here is what I love about the Kidde 25-foot Fire Escape Ladder:
Compact - this thing is smaller than a carry-on suitcase. When you consider how much room ladders take up in your garage (or where ever you store them) this is a bargain in space.
Peace of mind - we now have a safe way to climb out the window and down to solid ground, if needed. This peace-of-mind goes for the adults as well as the Littles in the household.
Since we haven't actually used it, I don't have first-hand experience to tell you what can be improved with this product. But note that it hangs from a window. So keep in mind if you have windows with roofline under them (like a room above a garage or whatever), you'll need extra ladder to go along the roof before it'll hang and so consider the amount of ladder on the roof in addition to the hang part (meaning, you may need to opt for the 25-foot ladder after all, instead of the 13-foot).
We have one in every room upstairs and so it wasn't cheap for something we, hopefully, will never use. But it's a one-time expense for an insurance plan that I know I won't regret having if we ever needed it.