Fire escape ladders might seem like chunky jungle-gym-like, pop-cameo accessories, but they serve their purpose in protecting you from a dangerous fire. When misused, you might land yourself in some trouble.
Almost 75% of all the deaths in home fires occur within the two minutes that people need to escape the house fire. Having a fire escape ladder in place is one of the many important ways to ensure that you and your loved ones are safe in case of a fire and can leave ASAP.
In this article, we’ll be covering the safety tips of fire escape ladders, whether they’re dangerous to use and how to use them properly.
History of Fire Escape Ladders
The danger myth of fire escape ladders seems to have come from their complex history.
In the 19th century, NYC buildings were not made to protect people from fire: the stairs were made of flammable materials, and the walls were essentially firetraps. Many people died from the fires that raged in these buildings, and city resources were exhausted from controlling the havoc wreaked from these flames.
Amongst the first safety measures installed was the escape ladder: an iron or portable wooden stairs that acted as ‘fire escape.’ It worked out at first, but over the decades, buildings in NYC were built sturdier, and eventually, the fire escape ladders were taking up square footage without any purpose. People began to use them as décor, fueling the perception that they’re nothing more than furniture that only gets in the way when an actual fire happens.
However, that’s not the case. Fire escape ladders serve the same purpose they’ve always served: to help you escape a dangerous, deadly fire. There are a few safety tips you need to keep in mind when you’re adding the fire escape ladder as a part of your safety plan
Some Safety Tips to Keep In Mind
Pick Tested Escape Ladders
Only chose the nationally-recognized laboratory-tested escape ladders. Whenever you buy a ladder, check for labels; hand in your cash to the seller simply if there’s a ‘tested’ label on it.
Only Use for Three Stories
Never use an escape ladder to escape from a floor higher than three stories – they’re not built for that! You could slip and fall or get seriously injured trying to use a piece of equipment in the middle of a fire in a way it’s not designed to be used.
In commercial premises where the building extends three stories, a fire escape ladder can be used as a cut-off between other escape routes. However, this is a bit risky and depends on the able-bodied people during the emergency event, the building’s profile, and even the public members. It is a slightly risky option, but it’s available.
Don’t Solely Rely on Escape Ladders
A good fire escape plan involves multiple different resources: a fire extinguisher, an evacuation plan, an escape route, and a smoke alarm. Don’t rely on just one of these to get you out of a fatal situation. When there’s a fire, many of your evacuation plans might not work for many reasons. This is especially true when you have a bigger family; you need all the resources you can get.
It is also important for people with an injury or handicap to know how to escape a fire emergency in order to ensure their safety and that of everyone else. For these people, using a fire escape ladder may not be ideal and they should prepare for other ways of escape.
Keep Them Near Windows
Keep your ladder near windows at all times. You don’t know when disaster will strike, and you don’t want to waste time looking for the ladder and setting it up in the middle of an emergency. Remember, people lose their lives in the two minutes after a fire has started; your nano-seconds matter when there’s a fire.
PS: If your windows have security bars, make sure that there’s an emergency release device attached to them so that the windows aren’t shut when you need to set up the ladder.
Let Everyone Know!
Everyone in your house – from your kids to your mother-in-law – should know where the ladder is located so that they can use it ASAP at first sight of smoke.
Practice Several Times
Practice setting up the ladder several times from the first floor so that you’re able to do it instinctively in the event of an emergency. You want to be swift and correct; practice makes perfect!
However, it is important to remember that the ladder must only be used for personal safety and should not be used for anything other than that.
One way to practice is marking a path of escape on a piece of paper and memorizing it or posting it on a clipboard in a hallway. Before using the ladder it is important to make sure that it fits properly onto the wall and that your are comfortable while standing on it. If there are any obstacles in the way or on the ground level, such as small puddles of water, fencing, or external cabling, the person using the ladder should be able to maneuver around them to reach the ground.
Note: Don’t practice setting up a ladder as part of your family fire drill. Ladders run the risk of injury and shouldn’t be used in haste. Only practice with the ladder in a non-urgent setting, and use it in case of a real emergency.
Fire escape ladders are not dangerous – provided you practice how to use them, ensure they’re fully functional and tested, keep them where they’re easily accessible, and use them as add-ons to your entire fire escape plan. And please, don’t use them as furniture or quirky accessories for your house. Once you are comfortable with the idea of using a fire escape ladder, you should learn how to use it securely and safely in order to get you to the ground quickly during a fire emergency.