How to Safely Descend a Fire Escape

If there’s a fire in your building, do you know how to safely get out when you’re on the second floor or higher up? Some people think they’ll just tie bedsheets together and anchor them to furniture while they lower themselves out a window, while others expect to rely on their fire escape—but how realistic is that plan?

Your building probably has a fire escape available, but knowing how to use it safely will help during an emergency. Here are our best fire escape use safety tips in San Francisco, CA:

  • Prepare for chaos and confusion: Even if you think you have a plan, like the aforementioned bedsheet version, it’s not guaranteed to work. When your building is on fire, you should expect that there will be chaos and confusion. The smoke can be incredibly disorienting and make it difficult to get around even the most familiar surroundings. Make sure that you have an easily accessible plan ready to go—and it shouldn’t be too much more complicated than “climb out the window and proceed to the fire escape.”
  • Know how your fire escape works: There are different kinds of fire escapes around the city. Do you have ladders? Extendable stairs? Make sure that you understand how your fire escape operates, and ask your building manager to demonstrate a few times so you can be prepared for anything.
  • Always face the stairs or steps: When going up and down a fire escape, always face the stairs or steps. That way, if you fall, you’re more likely to fall toward the steps rather than off the ladder entirely.
  • Use two hands: “Use two hands” might sound like an admonishment you left behind in first grade, but it’s important for staying safe in a dangerous situation. Make sure to hold on tight while descending your fire escape.
  • Keep plants, chairs and other objects away from the fire escape: It’s tempting to let your plants sit out on the fire escape to soak up the sun, but if there’s an emergency, these and other objects can hinder your and other people’s escape.
  • Ask your building manager about a fire escape maintenance plan: Moving into a new building? Ask the manager how often they maintain their fire escapes and how.
  • Consider window ladders: If your fire escape looks less than reliable and you want to make sure you have safe options, there are several windowsill ladders that you can attach to the sill and toss over the side. Brands like Kidde and First Alert sell reliable ladders for $30 or $40. Make sure you measure your window (they’re not one-size-fits-all) and check to ensure the ladders are designed to support your body weight.

Knowing what to do in a major emergency is the key to surviving. Make sure you go over the fire escape and any other safety plans with your family, roommates, employees and/or building manager as applicable.

Now that you’ve read these tips for safe fire escape descent in San Francisco, CA, let Great Escape Fire Escape Service maintain your emergency exits. Reach out to learn more or schedule a consultation.

Leave a Reply