Fire escape ladders are designed to provide an alternative exit from an above-ground window in the event of a house fire. If the usual exit route is blocked by flames or smoke, this safety device can be deployed in a matter of moments so that children or adults can reach the ground quickly and safely. “Fire moves fast, and experts agree that you may have as little as two minutes to escape a burning home before it’s too late to get out,” says Steve Jensen of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.
To find the best fire escape ladder for your situation, there are several important factors to consider. Thaddeus Harrington, a spokesperson for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (also known as the CPSC), advises homeowners to consider questions like: Does the ladder fit in the window it is to be used in? Can the user handle the weight of the ladder? Can the ladder be reused after use or will it need to be replaced? These are important questions to answer so that you can pick a ladder that will be safe and effective in the event of an emergency. We researched the top fire escape ladders available, evaluating options based on how sturdy and simple they prove to be.
x-it products X-IT Emergency Fire Escape Ladder
60-day guarantee and long-lasting warranty
Lifetime replacement policy
Designed for portable or permanent use
More expensive than most other options
The best fire escape ladder should be easy to use with a quality build. The X-IT Emergency Fire Escape Ladder meets these requirements and is designed to fit all windows. Out of the box, it’s a portable version that hooks over the window sill but you can also order a mounting kit to make it a permanent fire escape ladder. It’s available in various lengths to accommodate windows on the second to sixth story of a home or building. The tangle-free ladder folds up to about the size of a shoe box and can be stored in a nylon bag.
Some of the features that land this fire escape ladder at the top of our list include the fact that it’s lightweight (it weighs just under 6 pounds) and strong—it has a weight capacity of 1,000 pounds. It’s easy for just about anyone to use, including a child, but you can (and should) practice setting up and using the ladder with children. The fact that this X-IT model is reusable means that you don’t have to buy an extra one just to hold a practice session, which is what some other manufacturers recommend.
Firsthand experience using the ladder is the best way to gain confidence in using it but it also helps to know that the ladder is backed by a 15-year warranty. It also comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee—use it in a documented emergency and the company will replace it with a new X-IT Emergency Fire Escape Ladder. All these perks come with a slight price premium; this ladder costs more than some other models on the market. At the same time, the fact that it’s reusable and has a lifetime replacement guarantee makes it a worthwhile investment for most people.
Price at time of publish: $100
Length: 13 feet to 53 feet | Material: Nylon, aluminum | Weight Capacity: 1,000 pounds
First Alert EL52 Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder
6-year warranty period
Suitable for practice use
Rung stabilizers for easier descent
Requires specific window dimensions
No storage bag
A budget-friendly fire escape ladder prioritizes safety without requiring a big spend. The First Alert Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder costs under $60 and is constructed of durable materials that can be relied on in a time of emergency. The 14-foot-long ladder features alloy steel steps and stabilizers to keep the ladder steady as you descend. The rungs may not feel as sturdy due to their slim design—they only measure 4.25 inches deep—but they’ve been rated to hold 375 pounds. First Alert recommends this fire escape ladder for use by one person at a time.
Before deciding to buy this budget fire escape ladder, take a few basic measurements of the window you plan to use it in. Based on the manufacturer’s specifications, the bracket for this fire escape ladder requires a 6- to 10-inch window sill width. It should also be used in a window that measures at least 20 inches wide and 32 inches high, according to the instructions for use. The fire escape ladder weighs 12.8 pounds, making it slightly heavier than some other options on the market. Be sure to test the fit of the bracket in the window and make sure that family members know how to install and use the ladder. The product manual includes instructions on how to properly store the fire ladder after a practice session, so you won’t need to replace this product if you give it a test run. There’s unfortunately no storage bag included, but you can repack the ladder in its cardboard box.
All things considered, this ladder is an affordable way to ensure that two-story homes or apartments have a safe means of escape in the event of a fire emergency. And it’s worth noting that the 6-year manufacturer’s warranty tops the 5-year warranty of another affordable and popular model on our list, the highly-rated Kidde 2-Story Fire Escape Ladder.
Price at time of publish: $54
Length: 14 feet | Material: Steel, nylon | Weight Capacity: 375 pounds
Kidde L-2S Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder
Constructed of flame-resistant materials
Tangle-free design for faster set-up
12-inch wide steel steps
Intended for single use only
Slightly lower total weight capacity
The Kidde 2-Story Fire Escape Ladder earns high marks—over 12,000 five-star ratings on Amazon to be exact—for being lightweight, easy to deploy, and affordable. Measuring 13 feet long, this version is designed for use in a second-story window and is compatible with hung and casement windows, with or without a prominent sill. The metal bracket of this fire escape ladder fits in windows that are at least 16 inches wide.
Reviewers love the fact that this fire escape ladder only weighs 7.7 pounds, making it light enough for children or anyone with limited strength and mobility to lift and install. Once the bracket is positioned in the window, a Velcro strap with printed instructions directs you on the simple, easy way to unfurl the ladder. The tangle-free design ensures fast, easy deployment. However, this feature also means that this Kidde fire escape ladder is only intended for one-time use. If you need to practice setting up and descending the ladder, then you will need to purchase more than one ladder.
Other features that make this ladder a popular pick include the 12-inch wide zinc-plated steel steps, rated for 700 pounds of weight. Compared to rope rungs, the wider steel rungs provide plenty of room to place your feet and increase the stable, sturdy feeling of this fire escape ladder. In total, this fire escape ladder has a 1,000-pound weight rating. It’s slightly lower than the total weight capacity of some other models on our list, but only by a few hundred pounds.
Price at time of publish: $64
Length: 13 feet | Material: Zinc-plated steel, nylon | Weight Capacity: 1,000 pounds total; 700 pounds per step
Warner 2-Story Built-In Fire Escape Ladder
High-capacity weight rating
Durable, stable metal rungs
Suitable for practice sessions
Can paint the cover to match the wall
Some cosmetic complaints regarding the storage cover
Requires in-wall installation
A built-in fire escape ladder is a ready-to-go solution in the event of an emergency. Unlike portable fire escape ladders that need to be set up before being deployed, the Werner 2-Story Built-In Fire Escape Ladder is mounted in the wall below a window and is ready for use in a matter of seconds. The advantage of a permanently-installed fire escape ladder is that it won’t become misplaced under a bed or in a closet. It’s ready for use at the spot you need it, saving time in an emergency situation.
This 17-foot fire escape ladder is constructed with anti-slip aluminum rungs that are wide enough to comfortably step on and nylon webbing rails for flexibility. Stability is not an issue; each individual rung supports 400 pounds, while the ladder as a whole is stable enough to support 1,200 pounds of weight. This means that multiple family members or first responders can utilize the ladder at the same time. It deploys easily and you can practice setting up and descending on the ladder before folding it back up for future use. A 3-story version is available, too, if you need extra length to safely descend from a third-floor window.
However, the installation is more advanced than a portable fire escape ladder. This Werner ladder fits inside of a storage pan that is meant to be installed in the wall below your window, in between two studs. It requires 14.24 to 14.75 inches of clearance, meaning it should fit between 16-inch studs on center. A cover conceals the fire escape ladder inside. The unaesthetic cover may be the biggest cause of complaints about this product. The cover doesn’t have a finished appearance, but you can paint it to match the color of the wall.
Because of the installation requirements, this fire escape ladder may not be as suitable for renters. However, if you are comfortable with a basic drywall project, this fire ladder makes a stable, easy-to-use option that is ready for an emergency.
Price at time of publish: $109
Length: 17 feet | Material: Aluminum, nylon | Weight Capacity: 1,200 pounds total; 400 pounds per step
ISOP 16ft Fire Escape Ladder
Can be used multiple times
Reflective surfaces for better visibility in the dark
Must install lag bolts or buy window hooks
No stabilizers for ladder rungs
For a permanent fire escape ladder, consider this strong and durable version from ISOP. Available in various lengths ranging from 8 to 32 feet, this ladder is a reliable way to safely exit an upper-story window in the event of a fire. Plus, this ladder has reflective materials to increase its visibility in low-light conditions. Unlike single-use versions, this permanent fire escape ladder can be reused, making it ideal for families that want to hold practice sessions on how to properly descend the ladder.
The 16-foot ISOP Fire Escape Rope Ladder is made of thick rope and has an impressive weight capacity of 2,000 pounds, meaning that more than one family member can use the ladder at once. It includes two heavy-duty carabiners that are meant to be anchored to eye bolts installed in wall studs, but you can also purchase window hooks if you want to secure the ladder using that method.
The advantage of the carabiners is the ability to leave the ladder installed and ready to go; some reviewers with children leave the ladder hooked into place but neatly bundled inside the storage bag. If an emergency arises, the ladder simply needs to be tossed out the window. Since it weighs less than 9 pounds, it’s a task that is easily completed by most children. The biggest downside to this permanent fire escape ladder is the lack of stabilizers for the resin-covered rungs. The swaying of the ladder may make it harder to descend, especially for older individuals.
Overall, this fire escape ladder is an easy-to-use option. If you live in an apartment, you can purchase several ladders and connect them together using the carabiners to ensure you have enough ladder length to reach the ground.
Price at time of publish: $73
Length: 8 feet to 32 feet | Material: Nylon rope, resin rungs | Weight Capacity: 2,000 pounds
Hausse Retractable 2 Story Fire Escape Ladder
Meets recommended length
Stabilizers for each ladder rung
Compact bracket saves space
May leave marks on home’s exterior
Hard to repackage
To safely exit a second-story window during a fire emergency, you need an escape ladder that is long enough. According to Harrington, a second-story window needs a 13-foot ladder. He adds that “a longer 3-story ladder can be used from a 2-story window, but using a 2-story ladder from a 3-story window can be a problem.” With that in mind, we recommend the Hausse Retractable 2-Story Fire Escape Ladder. It meets the recommended length of 13 feet and has slip-resistant aluminum rungs with stabilizing feet to help you descend safely. It’s rated to hold up to 1,000 pounds of weight and the manufacturer states that it can support up to 3 people at the same time.
Other reasons to consider this 2-story fire escape ladder include the folding bracket. It has a pivot point and retractable arms to save space when stored. It also comes packed in a canvas storage bag that is easy to identify by its bright red color. It should be noted that this fire escape ladder is technically single-use; it should be replaced after emergency use. However, you may decide to unpack it for practice. Just be forewarned that packing it back up in a way that it fits neatly inside the canvas storage bag can be challenging.
The manufacturer also cautions that deploying the ladder can leave marks on the windowsill or exterior of your home. Some people have found this to be true in practice sessions with the ladder, but most people agree that in a true emergency, this is an easy-to-overlook drawback in exchange for a safe way to reach the ground.
Price at time of publish: $84
Length: 13 feet | Material: Aluminum, nylon | Weight Capacity: 1,000 pounds
ISOP 3-Story Fire Escape Ladder
Suitable for practice sessions
Includes stabilizers for each ladder rung
Constructed of durable nylon webbing
Installs with window hooks or carabiners
More expensive than other options
In the event of a fire emergency, you need a safe way to also exit third-floor bedrooms or living spaces. A too-short fire escape ladder or no exit plan can lead to injury or worse. With the CPSC's recommendation of a 25-foot ladder for 3-story use in mind, we recommend this version from ISOP.
The ISOP 3-Story Fire Escape Ladder is constructed of nylon webbing that supports 1,200 pounds of weight. It’s worth noting that it’s one continuous length of nylon webbing, which reduces the chance of fraying or breakage by eliminating weak spots where two pieces of nylon are sewn together. Aluminum rungs with a non-slip pattern give you a sturdy spot to place your feet as you descend the ladder.
You have two options for securely attaching this 3-story fire escape ladder. You can use the included window hooks or you can clip the heavy-duty carabiners to installed eye bolts. Alternatively, you can clip the carabiners to another fixed point, like a balcony railing. However, you should ensure that any anchor point you pick is strong enough to support the weight of the ladder under use.
The only significant drawback of this 3-story fire escape ladder is the fact that it’s more expensive than other options on the market. It costs just under $150 but also is reusable, meaning that you can set this one up and hold practice sessions to make sure everyone feels comfortable setting up and using the ladder. Don’t overlook the value of holding hands-on ladder drills. “Everyone who lives in the home and is physically capable should be confident about using the ladder,” says Jensen.
Price at time of publish: $139
Length: 25 feet | Material: Nylon, aluminum | Weight Capacity: 1,200 pounds
Best for Basement
Adjust-A-Grate 3-Step Aluminum Window Well Escape Ladder
10-year manufacturer warranty
Supports up to 300 pounds
Ladder rungs are uncomfortable without shoes on
Window wells deeper than 5-foot require an extension
Most fire escape ladders are designed to help occupants safely descend from an upper story but it’s also important to consider an escape route from the basement of your home. If flames or smoke block other exit points, a window well escape ladder is vital—and frequently required by local building code. For basements with a 4- to 5-foot window well, this version from Adjust-A-Grate is a perfect fit. It only requires six bolts for installation and supports up to 300 pounds.
The Adjust-A-Grate 3-Step Aluminum Window Well Escape Ladder is constructed from aluminum, so it won’t rust despite being exposed to the elements. It has just three steps to allow the user to quickly move from the lower level of your home to ground level. But it should be noted that the thin metal rungs may be uncomfortable if the user isn’t wearing shoes, which may be the case in the event of an emergency evacuation. Even so, the fact that the ladder is sturdy and easy to ascend makes it a great choice for less than $75.
Price at time of publish: $73
Length: 4 feet | Material: Aluminum | Weight Capacity: 300 pounds
Best for Babies and Pets
ISOP Fire Evacuation Device for Kids or Pets
Two sizes available
Includes 50 feet of rope
Backpack-style straps allow you to wear bag
Lack of support on the sides and bottom
Ventilation openings may be too large for some pets
When planning an escape route for your household, don’t overlook babies or pets that aren’t able to use a fire escape ladder. The ISOP Fire Evacuation Device holds up to 55 pounds and enables you to carry the bag down as a backpack or lower it to the ground using the 50 feet of included rope.
When deciding if this is the right fire escape solution for your young child or pet, consider the stated dimensions and weight capacity. The medium-size bag is 19 x 18 x 10 inches and holds up to 55 pounds. The large-size bag is 28 x 21 x 14 and holds up to 100 pounds. Keep in mind that the sides and bottom of the bag are not rigid; the manufacturer recommends that you put a pillow in the bottom to provide support and cushion the landing when the bag touches the ground.
Some reviewers that have practiced putting their pet inside find that the lack of support along the sides of the bag makes it more challenging to use. However, most people agree that the versatility of using this evacuation device as a backpack or transport bucket makes it an excellent choice in an emergency.
Price at time of publish: $46
Length: Not applicable | Material: Nylon | Weight Capacity: 55 pounds (medium); 100 pounds (large)
For most homes, the best choice is the X-IT Emergency Fire Escape Ladder. It’s available in lengths that accommodate two-story to six-story windows and stands out for being easy to use, reliable, and reusable. It’s backed by a 15-year warranty and the company will replace it free of charge if you ever use it in a documented emergency. If you don’t mind purchasing a single-use fire escape ladder (and already know how to set one up and descend the rungs), then you may consider purchasing the highly-rated and less expensive Kidde 2-Story Fire Escape Ladder. It’s not meant to be used for practice sessions but it has a tangle-free design and wide steel steps for better footing as you descend the ladder.
What to Look for When Buying a Fire Escape Ladder
Choose the length of your fire escape ladder based on the window you plan to use it in. According to CPSC spokesperson Thaddeus Harrington, “A 2-story property needs a 13-foot ladder, a 3-story property needs a 25-foot ladder, etc. so the ladder can reach the ground during an escape.”
Keep in mind that a longer-than-necessary fire escape ladder is better than one that is too short, but the longer the ladder is, the more it will weigh, which may be a challenge for younger or older users. A longer ladder also means it is larger and more of a challenge to store, based on the added ladder rungs.
Unlike step ladders, which are typically made of fiberglass or wood, a fire escape ladder is usually made of lightweight, foldable materials. You’ll find that most versions are made with nylon webbing or rope, with aluminum or resin rungs. This combination means that the ladder is lightweight and compact when stored, but very strong and durable. As an example, the X-IT Emergency Fire Escape Ladder (our best overall pick), weighs less than 6 pounds but has been tested to hold 1,000 pounds of weight.
When used properly, a fire escape ladder is a safety device. To ensure that it doesn’t become a hazard, you should consider the weight capacity or load rating for the ladder and choose one that will support the weight of each individual in your home. Some fire escape ladders, like the Werner 2-Story Built-In Fire Escape Ladder, support enough weight that multiple people can descend the ladder at once. This is a safer choice for a room with more than one occupant, like a bedroom shared by two children. Other safety features to consider include non-slip steps or rungs and fire-resistant materials.
Keep in mind that, according to Harrington, “A fire escape ladder is intended to supplement, not replace, the more important fire protection principles.” So safety is a bigger picture than simply having a fire escape ladder handy. You should also take the following precautions:
- Have fire extinguishers in your home.
- Place working smoke alarms on every level of the house outside the sleeping areas and inside the bedrooms.
- Develop a fire escape plan for your family with two ways out of each room and a meeting place outside.
- Keep bedroom doors closed. During a fire, closed bedroom doors can slow the spread and allow extra moments to get to safety.
Ease of Use
To be effective in an emergency, a fire escape ladder shouldn’t be too heavy or too complicated to deploy. When evaluating the ease of use of a fire escape ladder, consider how heavy the ladder is. Will the person using it be able to lift the ladder to the window sill and deploy the rungs? A tangle-free design, like what you’ll find on the Kidde 2-Story Fire Escape Ladder, helps to ensure that the rungs correctly unfold, enabling you to safely step on each rung.
You should also look at the set-up requirements. Some portable fire escape ladders have hooks that quickly fit over a window sill, while others attach to a fixed endpoint (usually an eye bolt) using carabiners. The bottom line is to make sure that the fire escape ladder you pick is easy enough to be used by everyone in the home.
How long should a fire escape ladder be?
The fire escape ladder you choose should be long enough to reach the ground from the window you plan to use it in. For second-story windows, the ladder should be about 13 feet. For a third-story window, look for one with at least 25 feet of length.
What is the best material for a fire escape ladder?
Pick a fire escape ladder made of strong, durable materials that can withstand heat. “The ladder should follow the ASTM F2175 standards,” says Harrington. “Various ladders are made with fiberglass and metal (aluminum), steel, aluminum, and nylon.”
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) sets global standards for products to ensure safe and effective use. The ASTM F2175 standards define performance requirements for portable and permanent emergency escape ladders such as static load, rung size, heat deflection temperature, and stress relief requirements.
How much weight should a fire escape ladder hold?
Most fire escape ladders have a weight rating of at least 375 pounds, which is usually suitable for at least one or two individuals to descend the ladder at the same time. For extra assurance, some ladders hold 1,000 pounds of weight or more. Keep in mind that the weight capacity of some fire escape ladders is expressed as the load-bearing capacity of a single step (usually around 375 pounds) or as the total weight capacity for the ladder. Some manufacturers provide both specifications.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Erica Puisis is a product researcher and writer with years of experience testing and writing about home products and appliances. When researching the best fire escape ladders, she considered options for two- and three-story homes, along with versions that are available in a longer length or can be combined together to fit your situation. Priority was given to products that have features that make the fire escape ladder sturdier or easier to use, such as stabilizers for the ladder rungs or a tangle-free tread design. She also took into account whether the ladder can be reused after a practice session.
To learn more about what to look for in a fire escape ladder, Puisis interviewed Thaddeus Harrington, Public Affairs Specialist for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. He emphasized the importance of basic fire protection principles, including having an evacuation plan that includes two points of exit for every room in your home. He also provided guidance on choosing the right length of fire ladder and what materials it should be made of.
We also interviewed Steve Jensen of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council for background information on what to look for when buying a fire escape ladder, what to know when using a ladder, and best practices for using your fire escape ladder.