Bob Vila Radio: Fire Escape Ladders

Protect yourself and your family by taking the precaution of putting a fire escape ladder in every upper-story room in which you spend time. Here's what you need to know.

By Roseann Foley Henry | Updated Jun 12, 2014 11:01 AM

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Here’s a dismal statistic: According to the Home Safety Council, just 6 percent of U.S. homes have a fire escape ladder. Apparently, a lot of us have some shopping to do!


Listen to BOB VILA ON FIRE ESCAPE LADDERS or read the text below:

Fire Escape Ladders


You really should have a ladder in every occupied upper-story room. Measure each room’s windowsill to make sure you purchase a ladder that fits. Ladders come in two standard lengths—15 feet (for second-story windows) and 25 feet (for third-story). Look for a ladder with lots of standoffs. These protrusions hold the ladder away from the house, keeping it steady. Your ladder should hold at least 1,000 pounds and have been tested by an independent certifying authority.

Next, decide whether you want a portable or permanent ladder. In an emergency, a portable ladder is carried to the window, hooked over the sill, and deployed. It must fit the window opening and be light enough to handle and easy to open.

Permanent ladders are mounted either inside the room or outside, near the window. While they are typically more stable and easier to deploy than portables, they’re also more expensive and require installation.

Finally, have your family practice using the ladder; young children can practice on a first-floor window. An escape ladder will do no good if your family can’t use it when they need to.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.