Ensuring that your home or office building has optimal fire safety protocols doesn’t just minimize the damage caused by the raging flames but also has the potential to save lives. Two of the best ways for evacuation during a fire are ladders and chutes.
If you’re wondering which would be the better choice for your property, you’re at the right place! We conducted a thorough comparison of fire escape ladders vs. fire escape chutes so you can make your right pick. Let’s dive right in.
How to Choose Between Fire Escape Ladders vs. Fire Escape Chutes
Before you pick a fire escape ladder or chute for your home or building, consider these factors:
- How tall is your building?
- Are there any people who are disabled or otherwise unable to climb?
- How many people would require immediate evacuation in case of a fire?
- What is your budget?
Determining which would be the smarter choice for your property can be confusing, so we’ve broken down the main features as well as the pros and cons of both.
Fire Escape Ladders
Fire escape ladders are evacuation devices that can be fitted outside your window or balcony for a quick escape. They also come in portable forms to offer ease of usability and storage. Fire escape ladders traditionally consist of hooks that anchor the ladder to your window or balcony. The ladder itself is made of a sturdy chain, metal wiring, or rope material that is firmly connected to these hooks.
These ladders work effectively during emergencies when the usual exit routes of the building are blocked by fire. Since nearly every room has a window, you can simply deploy the ladder within seconds and use it to get to safety. They create the perfect secondary escape route that building residents can help themselves without waiting for professional assistance.
Main Features of Fire Escape Ladders
- Various kinds are available for you to pick from.
- Compact folding for storage convenience.
- Quick deployment
- Sturdiness and easy climbing.
- Can withstand a load of up to 1000 pounds.
Pros of Fire Escape Ladders
- An ideal choice for buildings that are 2 to 6 stories high.
- Can be folded and stored away when not in use.
- Deployed in a matter of seconds for quick evacuation.
- Portable and replaceable so you can carry it with you if you shift to a new place.
- It can be fitted into most windowsills.
- The rungs are flexible but sturdy for easy climbing.
Cons of Fire Escape Ladders
- It isn’t suitable for people with physical disabilities.
- Limited length doesn’t cater to high-rise buildings.
- Not the best choice to evacuate many people quickly.
Fire Escape Chutes
On the other hand, we have fire escape chutes which are more suited for the mass evacuation of large numbers of people. These chutes are specially designed to withstand massive amounts of load, allowing the safe escape of over 30 people in just a few minutes.
The primary distinguishing feature of fire escape chutes is their ability to be safely used on high-rise buildings. They allow a quick and fully-secured vertical means of escape from skyscrapers during life-threatening incidents. The best part about using a fire escape chute is that it doesn’t require residents to go over complicated instructions before being deployed. Moreover, there is little to no physical exertion needed for the descent, making it the ideal choice for buildings housing people with physical difficulties or mobility issues.
Main Features of Fire Escape Chutes
- No power source is needed for use.
- It offers residents the perfect protection and escape route away from the fire.
- Transports a continuous flow of evacuees within minutes.
- Easy to deploy and ready for use quickly.
- Users can control the speed of descent.
- Made of a flame retardant material for added safety.
- Suitable for people of all ages.
- It comes in permanent and portable variants.
Pros of Fire Escape Chutes
- The ideal choice for high-rise buildings.
- Caters to people with physical disabilities or limited mobility.
- It doesn’t require extensive instructions to be followed before use.
- Little to no physical exertion required.
- No risk of slipping or falling.
- Allows for quick evacuation of large numbers of people.
- Can withstand impressively high amounts of load.
Cons of Fire Escape Chutes
- Available at a significantly higher price-point than fire escape ladders.
- Often considered economically ineffective due to rare incidents of use.
- Risk of overcrowding or suffocation due to too many people descending at once.
Our Best Picks For Safety
X-IT Emergency Escape Ladder [B000071NUX]
Our very first pick for high-performing fire escape ladders is the X-IT emergency fire escape ladder. It is widely accepted as the safest and most effective ladder in the market, perfect for fitting to walls or windows of various dimensions. The ladder weighs just over six pounds, making it super lightweight and carriable by all family members.
Furthermore, it comes in a size range of 13 feet to over 53 feet, allowing people to pick the right length as per their requirements.
The X-IT ladder has been certified with the ASTM F2175 safety standards and comes out on top as the easiest to use in fire emergencies. This ladder can withstand a load of up to 1000 pounds, is easily deployed within seconds, and allows for easy storage. You can simply fold it up and store it within a shoebox or on a shelf near the window when not in use.
- Lightweight and portable.
- A load capacity of over 1000 pounds.
- Designed to fit most windows.
- It can be stored in a limited space.
- Deployed within seconds for optimal fire safety.
- It can be tricky to figure out how to fold it back for storage after use.
- Unable to be installed on windows without sills.
Underfloor Evacuation Chute for External Walkways
If you’re looking to set up fire safety protocols for a taller building, the underfloor chute works perfectly. It allows for quick and safe evacuation through external walkways, fire exits, and scaffoldings. This chute is installed on the floor of a walkway or within the scaffold boarding and covered with a lid when not in use. It contains an internal spiral to control the speed of descent and ensure maximum safety for all people.
Furthermore, it can be deployed within seconds and comes in a height range of 4 meters to 120 meters. You can even get the fire escape chute material customized for added durability, and it can withstand over 30,000 pounds.
- It can be fitted into walkways up to 120 meters from ground level.
- Made of DIN 4102 class flame retardant fabric.
- Used for evacuation of multiple people from different story levels at one time.
- It comes with five high-strength belts to support extensive loads.
- Tested and proven to support the evacuation of 15 people per minute.
- Offers a 15-year manufacturer’s guarantee.
- Fitted permanently and lacks portability.
- Non-compact and can’t be stored and deployed as needed.
- Often considered economically ineffective.
Res-Q-Ladder Fire Escape Ladder
If you’re looking for a sturdy, American-made fire escape ladder that is portable and offers exceptional safety, you should look into Res-Q-Ladder. It is an ideal 35-foot long ladder that has been tested to support over 1000 pounds. This portable ladder can fit any traditional window sill and is extremely easy to install, ensuring anybody in the household or office building can use it.
The easy-to-install and remove standoffs offer an additional layer of stability to every rung on the ladder. People are often scared of using portable ladders as they are lightweight and usually move about due to wind or other external factors. To eliminate this fear, the Res-Q-Ladder has specially designed rungs that allow flexibility but still feel firm under your feet. It also has plastic sleeves for comfortable gripping as you escape any fire emergencies.
- Work great for buildings that are 2 to 6 stories high.
- Plastic sleeves for a firm yet comfortable grip.
- It can withstand 1000 pounds.
- Has hooks for sturdy attachment to the window sill.
- Flexible yet durable rungs.
- More costly than other fire escape ladders.
- May face difficulty with tangles during storage.
Ingstrom Escape Chute
The Ingstrom escape chute was created to streamline escape route solutions and make them more accessible to all people, including those with disabilities. These chutes are perfect to be used if the primary routes of escape have become obstructed or are overwhelmed by people rushing to get to safety.
These fire escape chutes eliminate the boundaries that come with high-rise buildings and their evacuation needs. These can be used in old and new buildings to increase their evacuation capacity per minute. The chute can withstand a load of over 2200 pounds and can be used by people with limited mobility or any other physical hindrances. It is deployed within seconds and can evacuate over 30 people within sixty seconds.
- Multi-purpose as it can be used in emergencies other than fires as well. For, e.g., Acts of terrorism, earthquakes, etc.
- Ideal for older, high-rise buildings that don’t have fire escapes built into them.
- It can be customized for a specific application.
- Operates even without an active electricity supply.
- Available in four different types, including single-entry, multi-entry, and mobile rescue chute.
- Easy installation and cost-effective.
- It comes with a serious risk of overcrowding which could result in injuries, suffocation, or even breakdowns.
- Often under-utilized and thus not considered worth the extra cost.
Werner ESC220 Fire Escape Ladder
If you’d prefer a permanent solution for escaping any potential fires instead of having to collect a portable fire escape ladder and deploy it, the Werner ESC220 could be right for you. It is a sturdy, reliable ladder with anti-slip rungs to allow for easy evacuation. It comes in a bundle with a LED flashlight for better visibility amongst the smoke and flames.
Furthermore, this ladder can be installed permanently outside your window so you can deploy it in mere seconds whenever needed. The climbing assistance straps act as the cherry on top, making sure you and your loved ones get to safety without any difficulty or hindrances.
- Perfect setup to evacuate several people at once.
- Heat-resistant straps for additional fire safety.
- An impressive load capacity of 1200 pounds.
- Can be reused
- It comes in a bundle with a flashlight to help make your way through the smoke during a fire.
- Permanently installed and can not be removed or relocated to another spot for emergencies.
The Final Verdict
In the end, it is important to realize that both of these evacuation protocols, the fire escape ladder vs. fire escape chutes, come with their own unique set of features.
A fire escape ladder works perfectly for smaller buildings and is often the preferred choice for homes and start-ups. It fits their limited budget, offers safety from the fire, and can be folded up and tucked away in a corner.
On the other side, we have a sturdy and durable fire escape chute, which might cost more but is considered worth it due to the impressive features it offers. The chute caters to absolutely everyone in the building, regardless of whether they’re dependent on wheelchairs or just too little to climb down safely. It allows mass evacuation of people quickly and protects them from the fire.
If the building is a skyscraper or hosts many people, the obvious choice would be to invest in a fire escape chute (which is also our personal preference!). However, if you live in a small apartment complex or simply can’t afford a chute, a fire escape ladder will get you to safety just as effectively!
Incorporating effective escape routes and procedures should be a must for every commercial, industrial or residential property with regular fire drills conducted for practice.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.