If you live in a multi-level residence or an upper level apartment, you have no doubt spent some time mapping out your family’s fire escape plan. Often the easiest way out of a midnight fire is through the bedroom window. Fire escape ladders are usually a safer bet than jumping. I have a good friend who experienced an apartment complex fire late one night, nearly two years ago. His wife was required to dangle from the second floor window and let go, when she hit the ground she broke both her ankles and she is still having ankle trouble and mobility issues today.
There are many fire escape ladders available on the market. Before buying one, you really need to consider the needs and capabilities of your family. If you have less physical strength than most, a less stable rope or chain based ladder may not be your best bet. If you have small children, the distance between ladder rungs may be a valid consideration.
- Are your needs best served by a rolling type, a telescoping type, or something different altogether?
- Where do you store your ladders? Are they accessible?
- If you are incapacitated, does your child know where his/her ladder is, how to deploy it, and how to use it?
- Have you and your family practiced deploying and using your ladders?
- Are your windows sealed, nailed, or jammed shut?
As you see, the mere fact of having a fire escape ladder is not enough. As with all emergency response equipment, you must thoroughly engage the mental preparedness pillar to maximize you and your family’s chances for success and survival.