Two people living in a second floor apartment used an escape ladder to flee their burning building earlier this month in Hampton, New Hampshire, USA. The fire blocked their usual exit and they had no option but to use the escape ladder (which was six feet too short) to get to safety. Without the escape ladder, things could have ended very differently. Although the fire service arrived quickly, smoke inhalation can have awful effects in a very short time, so no doubt getting out of the burning building quickly made all the difference. Many people don't have an escape ladder or other escape route in their home for emergencies, although workplaces are required by law to have fire escapes and fire doors. Rental properties are subject to stricter fire regulations than privately owned homes, so are required to have fire doors, a blanket or extinguisher and in some places, proper escape provisions. Many apartment blocks in America have external fire escapes, but these cannot always be accessed in the event of a fire. As a homeowner, a fire escape ladder is a very useful, inexpensive piece of kit that could save a life one day. Fire escape ladders can be stored in the home relatively easily: some are permanently fitted to a windowsill and some can be hooked over when needed. There are even escape ladders designed for velux style roof windows and homes where there are no windowsills, or just a balcony railing for fixing to. The Pro User Escape Ladder from Midland Ladders is ideal for normal two storey homes and first floor flats. It can be stored in a small space near the escape route and hooked over the windowsill quickly in the event of an emergency. The rungs descend without tangling and the unit can support up to 70 stone at a time (approximately 3 people). The treads have a stand off at each end to keep the ladder away from the wall and windows as you climb down. At only £59 including VAT and delivery, it is worth getting as many of these ladders as you have viable escape routes, as you can't predict where you will need to exit from in an emergency. Most fire escape ladders can be practiced on and it is a good idea to test out the deployment and positioning of the ladder before you really need to use it. In a fire situation it is easy to panic and if you're not familiar with the workings of your escape ladder it could cost you valuable time trying to work it out. Test the ladder in the various points you may need to use it from. First, hook the ladder out of the window and release the rungs. From the bottom of the ladder, test how soundly the unit is fixed by standing on the bottom rung. If it seems firm, climb up a few rungs to ensure it is held strong, then try climbing down it from the top as you would in an emergency situation. It is worth asking all the members of the household to test out the ladder and get used to using it, but you can turn it into a game for younger children so they don't get scared of the whole idea. Perhaps sing to them or offer sweets as encouragement. Any child under the age of four should be carried down the ladder, but children aged five and up should be able to use the ladder under adult supervision. When practicing using the escape ladder, make sure you have an order and a process in place that everyone sticks to. Nominate one person (an adult) to fix and deploy the ladder and set an order of descent so the oldest children go down first, as they are then able to help the younger children at the bottom of the ladder. Adults should be the last people to descend unless you have very young children, in which case one adult should ideally be on the ground to help while the other stays behind until last. The ladder should be packed away according to the instructions to ensure it works properly the next time it is used, whether that is for another practice or for the real event. Where you keep your fire escape ladder depends on where you have room, but at 15 x 6 x 19 inches the model above does not need a lot of space. Under a bed or down the side of a cupboard are popular storage places, but wherever it is kept, make sure it can be accessed easily without fumbling or moving anything and that everyone knows where it is. There are specialist escape ladders available for different types of window and for properties where there are no standard windowsills. There are even escape ladders designed to be used in attic conversions (these go down the roof and fit over the guttering without getting tangled) so if you do have a loft room, it is important that there are provisions for escaping in the event of a fire; the attic room is the hardest place for the fire service to get to and the place it will take longest to get out of. There are also special escape ladders available for taller buildings and flats that are higher than the first floor. Whatever your needs, the team at Midland Ladders are happy to talk you through the options and models we have and offer advice on the best course of action for your home.