We recently completed a home safety visit, and the question of home escape ladders was asked. Two on my crew suggested that the homeowner should purchase at least one and have it one of the kids bedrooms. They believe that as a last resort, the safety ladder is a good option. In my opinion (not the opinion of my employers) I feel that these ladders are unsafe. During ladder training and on the fire ground, firefighters get injured and killed. But the vast majority of ladder work is performed safely and efficiently because we train on them. From my research, some of these ladders appear to be for a one time use only, meaning you can't train on them. (It may be difficult to 'roll' them back up for storage.) In videos I have seen, reporters from television stations have been harnessed up to prevent a fall injury, but of course we can't do that when a house is on fire. I also believe that because the ladder tends to swing, that poses another scary situation for anyone using them, especially in a stressful situation. While seconds count, I believe that current efforts like practicing a home escape drill, knowing two ways out, closing doors at night, and making sure homes have working smoke alarms, can be more effective at saving lives. (If a window is your only way out, the fire department should be ready to throw ladders in the event someone is trapped.)
Yes, swinging ladders, late at night, adrenaline pumping, has it been deployed properly are all concerns but if it saves a life, then it was worth it. That said, does anyone have any data that suggests they are being used? Have there been confirmed life saves with these ladders? Does the NFPA have a standard for them, or guidance on the use of them?
I look forward to your input!