Pelham Fire Services Community Messages: Should I Get An Escape Ladder?

Escape ladders are portable roll-up or foldable ladders, which can be dropped out the window to evacuate the building during an emergency. They should not be confused with fire escapes, which are fixed stairs that have been erected off the building. Escape ladders work somewhat like boat ladders. They are generally made from aluminum or heavy plastic chain with rigid bars as the rungs of the ladder. Escape ladders come in different lengths, as they are made to accommodate either two- or three-storey homes.  You keep the ladder folded up in a box in your bedroom. When you need to use the ladder, you hook the top portion of it over the window sill and drop the rest out of the window.

According to the National Fire Protection Association), fire can spread rapidly through your home, leaving you with as little as one or two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. Imagine yourself waking up in the middle of the night, disoriented, trying to find an escape ladder that you have tucked away somewhere. Then, you still have to unlatch the window, open it, pop out any screens that may be covering it, unpack the ladder, ensure you have it pointed the right way, hook it up to the window sill, and drop it down to below. Once the ladder is securely in place, you have to climb out the window and lower yourself to the ground. This takes some physical ability and focus, and if you have never done this before it can be quite daunting.

Before you purchase an escape ladder, consider how quickly you can get out of the house using the regular route. There are no regulations that mention the use of escape ladders as part of the evacuation from a building. If you do intend to purchase one, ensure the load capacity is adequate, it is UL tested (an independent product safety testing, certification and inspection organization) and that it fits the window you intend to use it for. Be sure to practice using the ladder regularly and to keep it easily accessible at all times. Early detection (i.e. working smoke alarms) and fire prevention are key to fire safety.
If you have any questions about this or other fire safety related matters, contact the Pelham Fire Prevention Officer, Saskia Holditch, at (905) 892-2607 ext. 202 or at sholditch@pelham.ca.