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Can your family really climb down a fire escape ladder?

Posted: 1:40 PM, Apr 27, 2017
Updated: 2017-04-27 16:40:11-04

How would you get our of your house in a fire? We’ve heard of people saying they would tie bed sheets together and climb down or throw a mattress out a window and jump on it.

“In reality there is not time for that in a fire,” Lt. Mike Somma, of the Denver Fire Department said.

Somma recommends people invest in fire escape ladders if they live on the second or third floor. He recommends people on higher floors wait for help from the fire department if they cannot get down safely.

Only six, percent of homes in the United States have a fire escape ladder, according to the Home Safety Council in 2010.

Somma says it is important to make sure you know how to use a fire escape ladder.

“What I’ve seen in my career is that when people's residences are on fire, there’s very heavy smoke conditions and people get disoriented in their own homes so someone opens a door thinking he’s going outside when really they are going into a closet area or a different part of their residence and getting themselves trapped,” Somma said. “A window can be an important escape path.”

To see how easy or tough ladders are to use, we bought three of the most common fire escape ladders sold for two-story homes. The ladders are available at many big retailers and on Amazon.

With the fire department supervising, we put each ladder to the test at Anna Grado’s home. She lives with her husband, daughter, granddaughter and parents in Denver.

“I was looking online for a throw ladder, you throw over the window, but I wasn’t sure what the best one would be or what would hold me or the rest of my family,” she said.

We hooked the ladders over the window sill on the second floor and climbed down two of the three ladders.

We made it safely down the two-story ladders made by First Alert, sold for about $40, and Kidde sold for close to $30.

The ladders were not nearly as sturdy or as easy to use an A-frame ladder so many of us have at our homes.

At times the ladder pulled away from the side of the house.

Grado watched the test from below.

If you had no other way out of your home in an emergency, Grado says the ladders would be a viable option.

“To see you get down brings more piece of mind,” she said.

We had trouble with a $90 ladder order online with a box indicating it was made by the American Ladder Company.

It didn’t properly fit over Grado’s second floor master bedroom window. Because it didn’t feel sturdy enough we didn’t attempt to climb down.

“The very last ladder he attempted to use, I won’t be using that one. The First Alert one worked, it seemed a little more stable,” Grado said.

Regardless of which ladder you choose, it’s important to open it up, familiarize yourself with it and make sure it works with the design of your window.

Not all ladders fit every window.

“Measure your window,” Somma said.

When your home is on fire, you won’t have time to figure it out, he said.