In the case of a house fire, a window might be your family’s only safe escape route. If you live in a two- or three-story home, exiting through an upstairs window can be a tricky proposition. To keep your family safe, provide access to the best fire escape ladder in every upstairs room.
These collapsible ladders are designed to be hung from windows and offer a safe escape if other exits aren’t accessible. Read on to learn how to choose a quality fire escape ladder, and why these recommendations are among the best during an emergency.
- BEST OVERALL: Hausse Retractable 2 Story Fire Escape Ladder
- RUNNER UP: Kidde 468193 KL-2S Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder
- BEST PORTABLE: DELXO Fire Escape Ladder
- BEST FEATURES: ISOP Fire Evacuation Rope Ladder
- BEST 3 STORY: Kidde Three Story Fire Escape Ladder
- ALSO CONSIDER: ISOP Emergency Fire Escape Ladder
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.
Number of Stories
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 in 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.
Our Top Picks
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.
From Hausse, this retractable two-story fire escape ladder comes in an easy-to-spot, bright-red canvas storage bag, which keeps the ladder neat, tidy, and ready to go—avoiding tangles that could jeopardize your safety.
This ladder weighs just over 10 pounds, making it easy to position before you release the included deployment strap. The Hausse holds up to 1,000 pounds, and three people can use it safely at one time. It also has standoffs to make getting your feet on the rungs as easy as possible.
Don’t sacrifice family safety to stay on budget. This two-story fire escape ladder from Kidde provides enough strength and convenience to get your loved ones to safety without a hefty price tag. This 13-foot long ladder uses large hooks to hang from your window sill. It has zinc-plated metal rungs and a nylon strap rail, holding 750 pounds on each rung and up to 1,000 pounds of weight-bearing strength overall.
This ladder’s rungs are slip-resistant, ensuring everyone in your family gets to the ground safety—especially important in the middle of the night when you might need to exit barefoot. The tangle-free design has a deployment strap, allowing you to position the ladder in the window before use. Best yet, it weighs under 8 pounds and can be easily lifted. It does not include a storage bag or case, however, so keep it in the box.
If you can only have one fire escape ladder in your home, it needs to be as portable as possible, and work in every window. The DELXO is the perfect solution for a centrally stored fire escape ladder. This ladder weighs less than 11 pounds for easy portability, while the hooks fit over walls as thick as 14 inches for a universal fit. It holds up to 1,000 pounds due to a secure nylon strap and metal rungs. This ladder is simple to use, owing to its deployment strap and standoffs, which make it easy to get your feet onto each rung on the way down.
Minimize the risks of exiting through a window with ISOP’s emergency rope ladder. This kit includes a 32-foot ladder with round resin rungs, as well as a harness with carabiners and a safety rope. The safety rope is red and can easily be distinguished from the ladder. As you descend the ladder, the safety rope sections end, allowing you to hook it to the next lower section, greatly reducing the risk of a serious fall.
Bailing out of a three-story window can be scary, especially for children and seniors. Give your family as much confidence as possible with Kidde’s three-story escape ladder. This fire escape ladder is 25-feet long and has a weight capacity of 1,000 pounds due to the nylon strap rope and steel rungs, each of which has a 750-pound capacity. The rungs also have a non-slip coating and built-in standoffs, helping you to position and maintain sure footing on each rung as you climb down. The hooks attach easily to a window and you can set up the 12-pound ladder quickly in an emergency.
This option from ISOP offers a secure fire escape solution for a balcony or railings. The ladder features two carabiners that snap over a railing or to an eyelet you’ve driven into your framework (not included). It has a 25-foot length, long enough for three-story homes, or second-story rooms over porches.
This ladder has a 2,000-pound weight capacity, and the resin rungs are sturdy and easy to grip. The ISOP is also very lightweight, weighing under 13 pounds inside its handy storage bag. If you prefer to have the option to hang it from a window as well, you can purchase the hooks separately.
Tips for Using a Fire Escape Ladder
- Be sure to choose a ladder that works for each room, keeping obstructions in mind. Just because you live in a two-story home doesn’t mean a two-story escape ladder will necessarily work for you. If there’s a porch outside your window, for example, you may need a three-story ladder to account for the increased distance the roof takes up.
- Everyone in the home should be familiar with the use of your fire escape ladders. The prospect of climbing out of a window can be frightening, especially if there’s a fire blocking your exit. The time to learn how to use your fire escape ladder is when things are calm, so implement some training into your home’s fire safety plan.
- Use the same product in all of your bedrooms to avoid complications. By doing so, your family only has to learn how to use one type of fire escape ladder. Fire safety plans must be simple to be most effective, and having several models with different features will complicate the plan. Keep the ladders in the same location in each room, such as under the bed or in a closet, so that everyone knows where a ladder is, regardless of which room they’re in.
- Inspect fire escape ladders regularly. Check your fire escape ladders when you test your smoke detectors. Be sure that they’re free from obstructions that would block access to them and free from tangles that can limit how well they deploy.
FAQs About Fire Escape Ladders
Fire safety is serious business, so be sure that you know how your ladder works, and how to use and store it. Consider these answers to common questions about fire escape ladders.
Q. How do fire escape ladders work?
In the event of a fire or other emergency, an escape ladder involves one of three methods for users to descend safely: either attaching permanently to a wall or window inside the house, hooking over an open window frame, or attaching to balconies or railings using carabiners.
Users access the permanent ladder installation or secure the hooks/carabiners, lower the rungs out the window and down the side of the house. Once the lowest rungs of the ladder have reached the ground, you can carefully step out onto the ladder and descend to safety.
Q. How do you store a fire escape ladder?
The best option is a bag devoted solely to storing your fire escape ladder. Not all ladders come with one, so it may be worth purchasing a separate canvas or nylon bag in a bright color to house your ladder.
Q. What should I do in case of a fire?
The first thing you should do in case of a fire is get to safety. This may include grabbing a fire extinguisher and clearing a safe path to a door or window. Once you and your family are outside the home, call 911 and alert first responders to the situation.