Since 9/11, various task forces in New York City and elsewhere have been tackling the problem of rescuing large numbers of people from high-rise buildings. According to Susan K. Neely, special assistant to the President at the Office of Homeland Security, "Terrorists are willing to be patient...If there is a lull before another attack, the time must be used wisely."
Often dominated by architects, the principal focus of these action groups has been on enlarging existing staircases and providing duplicate staircases. However, this may not always work. In Hong Kong, where multiple staircases are the rule, a 1995 fire in a ten-story building blocked all the exits by smoke before all the occupants had left the building. Fortunately, unlike many buildings in the United States, they had access to the roof from which they could be rescued.
Recommendations have been made to remove the antennas and other equipment from the roofs of tall buildings so as to make them safe for helicopter landing. Los Angeles now requires that all new high-rise buildings have a heliport. Another proposal is to establish refuge floors, as used in Hong Kong, where people can await rescue. These are expensive solutions that few landlords are ready to implement.