Make sure your emergency preparedness plan includes one of the best fire escape ladders for your family to exit safely.
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What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fire Escape Ladder
Your family’s safety could someday hang on a fire escape ladder—so a reliable, high-quality product a must. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when shopping for the best fire escape ladder.
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Your home’s design and construction factor into choosing the best fire escape ladder for your safety plan. While there is always the potential for injury when escaping through a window, having a properly sized fire escape ladder can minimize the chances of an accident.
Fire escape ladders come in two main varieties: two-story and three-story. A two-story escape ladder will work for most raised ranch and Cape Cod-style homes. Three-story fire escape ladders are better suited for colonial, farmhouse, and townhouse styles, as the bedroom windows in these homes are normally higher from the ground, requiring a longer ladder to climb to safety.
Fast, easy access to a fire escape ladder is essential in an emergency. You must be able to get to your ladder quickly and ensure it unravels well. Much of that relies on how you store it. The best fire escape ladders come with storage bags or boxes that prevent them from tangling in storage. They unzip or unsnap, so you can remove the ladder quickly, hook it to the window, and toss it out to exit.
Where you store the ladders is also important. There should be one in every occupied bedroom, in the same location—typically, in a closet or under the bed—so that it’s easy to recall where they are. Wherever you decide to keep your ladder, make sure that it’s clear of obstructions; check on this at least yearly when you check your smoke detectors’ batteries.
There are three ways to secure a fire escape ladder to windows: hooks, carabiners, and lag bolts. Each has distinct benefits.
Large steel hooks slide easily over window sills of 2 by 4 and 2 by 6 inches, and even concrete block walls. They set up quickly and require no permanent changes inside of the room.Fire escape ladders with carabiners—metal clips commonly used in rock climbing and repelling—are a great choice if you have a second- or third-floor balcony because they work exceptionally well with steel railings: You hook them to the handrail and allow the ladder to drop to the ground.In a fire, every second counts—and lag-bolted fire escape ladders are ideal for saving time. It comes in a metal box that screws into the framework of the wall, below the window, and is always at the ready—it attaches permanently, so hooking it to a wall or window is not necessary. Lag-bolted ladders provide extraordinary strength and security, since they rely on your home’s sturdy framing instead of metal hooks that sit over the window sill.
Weight & Weight Capacity
Everyone in your home should be able to use your fire escape ladder. Some older designs were too heavy for seniors and those with physical disabilities to use, so today’s options are lighter. Many fire escape ladders are made of nylon climbing rope, which has great tensile strength without the added weight of metal chains. Rigid rungs made of steel or hard resins provide a secure step without adding a ton of weight. The result is a strong ladder that deploys quickly while weighing less than 10 pounds.
Weight capacity is also an important factor. Manufacturers rate their ladders’ weight capacity as overall capacity, in the event that several people are on the ladder at once, and an individual capacity per rung. For example, a ladder may have a 250 pound capacity for each rung, but an overall capacity of 1,000 pounds, allowing four or five people on the ladder at a time.
When you deploy a fire escape ladder, the rungs sit tight against the side of the house. That lack of space between the ladder and the exterior wall can make it very difficult to get your feet into each rung safely. Some manufacturers address this issue with standoffs: small wings on each rung to hold them slightly off of the side of the house. This gives you just enough room to naturally position the ball of your foot on the rung, providing safety, security, and balance. They also make it easier to get your hands behind the rungs for extra grip.
While a fire escape ladder is technically a safety device in itself, some have bonus features that make them even easier and safer to use. For instance, you can find rope ladders that come with a safety harness like rock climbers wear: Slip your legs through the harness, cinch it around your waist, and then clip it to the descending rope on the side of the ladder.
Many of the best fire escape ladders have quick-deploying straps that allow you to position the hooks in the window before releasing the length of the ladder. This makes them much safer as you’re less likely to tangle up the ladder in an emergency. You’re also less likely to drop the entire ladder out of the window before it’s secure.
The great news about the best fire escape ladders is that they’re all pretty affordable. Most land somewhere between $30 and $80, with some outliers in the mid $100-range. If you have several rooms to cover, however, that extra cash per room can add up.
While you should never skimp on safety, the options at the lower end of the range are perfectly fine for your fire safety plan. What you might not get at the higher range are features like safety harnesses or metal boxes that lag into the framework of your wall.
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Adding fire escape ladders to your home emergency plan increases your family’s chances of surviving a dangerous scenario. This guide presents recommendations for reliable fire escape ladders available to improve your family’s fire safety plan.