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Fire Escape

Every home should be equipped with smoke detectors.

Fire escaper ladders save lives. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Fire escaper ladders save lives.

Fire Escape

A fire escape in the home can help save lives. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 8 out of 10 people who died in a 2008 fire in the United States were killed in one that occurred in the home.

The Importance of Smoke Alarms

NFPA reports indicate there were more than 400,000 home fires in 2006, with more than 2,500 deaths. These fires injured 12,500 people and resulted in almost $7 billion in property damage.
Officials blame cooking and heating equipment as the two leading causes of home fires. The leading causes of death in home fires most often involve smoking materials and heating equipment.

NFPA suggests that all homeowners should have a fire escape plan that is practiced at least twice a year. They recommend these tips:

  • Draw a map or floor plan of the home -- note windows and doors in each room
  • Designate two ways out of each room
  • Smoke alarms should be installed in each room, outside each room and on every floor of the home. On the map, mark each smoke alarm with an SA.
  • Choose a family meeting place outside where everyone can meet

More information can be obtained at NFPA's website.

Selecting Fire Escape Ladders

In addition to smoke alarms and having an in-home safety plan, fire escape ladders can be life-saving tools. Stairways often become blocked in fires. Fire escape ladders from second- and third-story windows can provide a fast and easy exit for those trapped inside the home. Homeowners may only have seconds to act in a fire. In a matter of minutes, flames can engulf a home.

There are two types of ladders:

  • Permanent ladders: These are fixed ladders that are permanently attached to the window (or inside the home) and are operated by a switch, lever or some type of release.
  • Portable ladders: These are stored underneath bedroom windows, beds or in closets for easy access, as needed.

When it comes to fire escape, it's important to educate family members. According to Selectsafetysales.com, fire escape ladders should be placed in each room above the first floor of a home. They suggest that once a fire has already overtaken a home, the only exit might be through a window. Escaping through a window is easier with a fire escape ladder. They encourage homeowners to have a fire safety evacuation plan in place, and recommend ladders in every room from the second floor on up.

As a rule, choose sturdy fire escape ladders that can hold at least 1,000 pounds. Generally, a 13' foot ladder can be used for a second story window. For third and fourth story windows, purchase a 25' ladder. Ladders with a steel frame are the most durable. Others may buckle with the heat from a fire.

The Tennessee Fire Safety Inspectors Association recommends checking the windows when planning a fire escape. Removing and replacing window panes or screens will assure homeowners that the windows won't stick during an emergency. Also, if homeowners are using a portable fire escape ladder, they should check to make sure it might be securely placed in the window sill.

Exploring the Different Types

Those looking for a small, lightweight ladder for children may consider Safe-tots.com's portable, aluminum ladders, which are specially designed to be used by children.

Pearl Permanent Escape and Rescue Ladder costs about $329. It supports up to 1,500 pounds, which makes it possible for more than one person to escape at the same time. It can be quickly deployed. Pearl is also child-friendly with its anti-slip rungs. The ladder is 23' 8'' providing 27' of coverage.

The Average Cost of a Fire Escape Ladder

An inexpensive, portable ladder like the Kidde Escape Ladder is quick and easy to use. It stores easily under the bed or near a window and retails for under $80. The company also offers a three-story fire escape ladder for $116.69.

The features and benefits they tout include:

  • Strong, durable construction that ensures fast escape
  • By attaching to most common windows, it is easy to use
  • It has been tested up to 1,000 pounds
  • No tools or assembly required; it's ready to use
  • Anti-slip rungs

Ace Hardware carries a First Alert Fire Escape Ladder for $42.99. The product details of this highly rated ladder include:

  • 14' long ladder
  • Two-story Dupont cordura nylon straps for maximum strength
  • Complies to ASTM standards
  • Slip-resistant rungs
  • Strong steel construction; tested up to 1,125 lbs. (350 lbs. per step)

Prices for other types are in the medium price range. Amazon stocks a mid-level fire escape ladder, the Red Rung 25 Foot Interior Permanent Fire Escape Ladder, which is priced at $169.95.

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