A house fire in Engine 11’s first due caused a family of four to have to be rescued from a second-floor roof with ground ladders.
The normal way out of any house or building is through a doorway. The problem here was that the family could not get downstairs to exit out a door. Thankfully, such houses have porch roofs and a window that leads to an attached garage roof.
I am not sure what the backs of the homes look like. Whatever the case and whatever the cause, I am quite certain that this family did not go to bed expecting to have to exit their home out of their second-floor windows. From what I read, all four escaped and were transported to an area hospital due to possible smoke inhalation.
• Let’s think about two-story houses. If you had to exit from a second- or third-floor window, how would you do it? Would it be better to stay in your room until firefighters arrive? If so, would you know what to do to protect yourself? Do you have a rescue ladder? Have you ever taken it out of the box?
Let’s answer those questions:
• If you had to exit from a second or third-floor window, how would you do it? You first need to open the window, clearing away curtains, blinds and screens. If there is a roof to get on, then you must climb out the window without falling. If there is no roof to get onto, then you need to deploy a rescue ladder or hang and drop to the ground, realizing that you may be hurt.
• Would it be better to stay in your room until firefighters arrive? If so, would you know how to protect yourself in place? Your smoke alarms are sounding. You crawl out of bed to your door, checking it with the back of your hand. The door is hot. Do not open the door! A hot door means that the fire is close. If the door is cool, but when you open the door the hallway is full of smoke, close the door. Turn on your light. Stuff blankets or clothing under the door. Open your window and prepare for your escape if necessary. If you can stay until firefighters arrive, be ready to do whatever is necessary to let firefighters know that you are in that room.
• Do you have a rescue ladder? If no, go buy one. Any ladder that is rated UL or FM will do. If yes, go to the next question.
• Have you ever taken your rescue ladder out of the box? If no, do it now! If you do not practice with a rescue ladder, you will not use it in a fire. Take the rescue ladder out of the box and lay it out. Read the instructions on how to deploy the ladder out your window and attach it to the window, unless it is the type that mounts below the window. Deploy the rescue ladder out the second-floor window. Once deployed, go outside through your front or back door and climb up the ladder, just enough to get a feel for the ladder. Once this is done, go get the ladder and take it to a first-floor window. Deploy it out of that first-floor window. This will be the hardest part of knowing that you can use it. Climb onto the windowsill, stepping down on the first rung outside the window. Once on the ladder, descend the ladder until you reach the ground. Once you have done this, take the rescue ladder to the room from which it will be deployed, making sure that everyone who stays in your house knows about this ladder.
I hope that this article has at least made you think about what you and your family will do to get out of a burning home, especially when primary exits are blocked by fire or smoke.
It is important to be prepared by having a practiced escape plan that includes the primary and secondary exits. A home escape plan must be practiced in the daylight and at night. Having an adequate number of properly located and properly working smoke alarms is the best answer to early warning.
Once you have taken care of these things, sleep well because you are more prepared than you were the previous night!