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Best Overall: FIRST ALERT Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder
The First Alert Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder comes fully assembled and folds down for easy storage in a closet or under your bed. The 14-foot ladder is made of nylon strapping for increased stability and has sturdy, steel, anti-slip rungs. It can hold up to 375 pounds at a time and fits standard window sill between 6 and 10 inches wide.
Practicing an at-home fire drill probably isn’t at the top of your list of fun things to do on the weekend, but when you consider that seven people die and an additional 36 people are injured in home fires each day as reported by the American Red Cross, you’ll understand why you must to make time for them. “Having a home fire escape plan and practicing it twice a year with everyone is one of the most important steps you can take to keep your household safe,” says Steve Jensen of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.
“Fire escape ladders may be necessary to provide two ways to exit every room in a multi-story home should a fire block the main stairs,” Jensen says. “Because of this, fire ladders must be accessible and easy to use.”
Best Portable: Kidde L-2S Two-Story Fire Escape Ladder
“The most important aspect is that everyone in the household should participate in these decisions and be confident with their use,” Jensen says. This ladder weighs in at under 8 pounds, which is light enough that just about everyone in your family—from the very young to the very old—should be able to lift it. That’s important as Jensen notes that “everyone who lives in the home and is physically capable should be confident about using the ladder.”
The ladder deploys immediately once it’s hooked in place over a windowsill and it features anti-slip, zinc-plated steel rungs that are one-foot wide. Each ladder can support up to 1,000 pounds at a time. One word of caution: This ladder can only be used once, so when you’re practicing those fire drills, you’ll have to simulate climbing down it.
Best With Carabiners: ISOP 16ft Fire Escape Ladder
“Portable ladders with carabiners attach to secure anchor points such as eye bolts inside the home below the window,” explains Jensen. Because of this, these are the best fire escape ladders for anyone with large windowsills or windowsills with a trim that make it challenging to use the hook-style fire ladders.
This ladder is made of thick rope and can hold up to 2,000 pounds at one time. You’ll need to buy the hooks separately and install them onto the side of your home before using this ladder. You’ll also want to practice attaching the carabiners to them, so should disaster strike, you (and everyone in your family) will know how to readily attach them. Live in an apartment? You can buy two or three of these ladders and attach them to each other via the carabiners for a safe emergency escape over 16 feet.
Best Permanent: Warner 2-Story Built-In Fire Escape Ladder
“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,” Jensen says. If you have any concerns that you or any members of your family would be able to lift and carry one in an emergency, the best fire escape ladder for your family is one that's built into your home. This one stores in the wall under the window inside your home where it will stay until it’s called into action.
The self-deploying ladder is made of a combo of aluminum and nylon, which makes it as lightweight as it is durable. It has 12 rungs and can handle a total of 1,200 pounds at a time. Note that you’ll need to cut out the wall under the window to install this ladder, so depending on your comfort level with drywall, you may need to call in a handyman.
Best 3-Story: x-it products X-IT Emergency Fire Escape Ladder
If your home has a third story, you’ll want a ladder that’s at least 20 feet; while that’s a must, the extra feet can add extra weight. Not so with this X-It ladder. The 23-foot plastic and rope ladder weighs 10 pounds and is so compact then when it’s folded it’s about the size of a shoebox. It comes in a bright yellow storage bag that’s easy to spot in an emergency, plus the directions are printed right on the bag, which can save you precious seconds as you’ll never have to fumble around to find them.
The ladder hangs onto a windowsill from the inside; if you don’t have one, you can hang it off a piece of sturdy furniture or install hooks by the window inside your home. Reviewers note that the ladder is tangle free and easy to repack after a trial run.
Best 2-Story: Hausse Retractable 2 Story Fire Escape Ladder
If you have more than one window in your bedroom, you should buy a ladder for the largest one “with nothing blocking access to the window on the inside and with minimal obstacles below,” Jensen says.
The hook on this Hausse ladder is retractable, making it easier to store in the included bright red bag—you’ll want to extend the ladder hook at both ends prior to use. The 13-foot ladder then hooks easily over most window frames or window sills. It can hold up to 1,000 pounds at a time. Note that this is a single use ladder, so you won’t be able to run a full drill with it.
Best Budget: Delxo Fire 2 Story Portable Escape Ladder
“One particularly useful feature are short standoffs at each of the rungs,” Jensen says, “these standoffs make it much easier to use the ladder.” That’s exactly what this 13-foot Delxo fire escape ladder has, and one reviewer notes the standoffs help to keep the steps straight and away from the wall of your home.
The ladder also has adjustable hooks so it will fit most windows; note that it’s important to adjust them to fit before an emergency arises (like during your twice yearly home fire drills). The slip-resistant steel rungs can hold a maximum of 1,000 pounds at a time. This ladder won’t scratch the exterior of your home, which makes it a favorite of home inspectors and house painters, too.
Best for Babies and Pets: ISOP Fire Evacuation Device for Kids or Pets
Parents of babies (both the human and the fur variety) may wonder how they would carry their child to safety in the event of a fire. That’s where this fire evacuation device comes in. It works as a backpack or can be used to gently lower down your precious cargo with the included 50-foot rope—plenty long enough for homes with third stories or even fifth floor apartments. (When using this way, place a pillow in first to cushion any accidental falls.)
The device holds up to 75 pounds and one reviewer notes it’s large enough for a German shepherd in an emergency situation (however, this isn’t intended to be used as an everyday dog carrier).