I recently had someone ask me about escaping a burning home if they are above the ground floor. While most of us are within a few steps of a window in most of our homes, the upper floor presents challenges that are unique. The key to survival is planning ahead for the upper-floor escape.
Two- and three-story fire escape ladders are the most common types, and can be purchased locally at hardware and home improvement stores. While doing an Internet search, .
The first task in planning an upper-floor escape is taking the time to look out of each window and see where it leads you. Sometimes a straight drop is best for hanging a ladder on and heading out. Other windows will drop you to a lower roof, where you can wait for another ladder from outside the home to reach you. You may have a soft landing on grass, or a hard landing on concrete to think about. The severity of the situation will dictate what level of risk you are willing to take, but you should know your options before the situation arises.
Escape ladders usually come in a box that will easily slide under a bed or in a closet. When needed, you just slide it out and place it near the window. Open the window, as you have determined by now that a door escape from the room is not feasible due to heat, smoke and fire conditions. Make sure the hanger will fit in the window for which it is intended. They usually have a “J”-shaped hook, which hangs over the window ledge. The rungs go outside, and may have to be “unhooked,” usually by pulling a Velcro strap to deploy. Practice hanging and climbing down from the lowest floor in your home.
Once you decide on a room to store the escape ladder in, make sure all people who normally sleep on that floor of the home know where it is. If the stairs leading down are blocked due to the fire, head into the room with the escape ladder and close the door behind you. Deploy it out the window and begin climbing down. Have a stronger person go down first, who can then assist others. Have the next strongest wait for last and help others onto the ladder.
The portable escape ladder is one part of a family home escape plan. Other parts include having plenty of working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms, which are tested monthly. Have a predetermined outside meeting place where family members will meet in case of fire. Go over the escape plan, including feeling any door before opening it, crawling low under smoke and knowing two ways out of every room in the home. As always, feel free to call or stop by if you need any assistance with your escape plan.
Tom Kiurski is training coordinator for the Livonia Fire Department.