If the answer is no, then it sounds like an escape ladder would be ideal. Many are designed to be hidden in rooms, such as under a bed or in a cupboard, and can quickly and easily be deployed when needed.
Now you need to choose the right one. It needs to fit the type of window you have and be the right length. And you need to get this right.
What Type Of Window?
Most fire escape ladders work by sitting on the window sill and ledge, with supports which rest on both the outside and inside of the wall. So you need to measure the width of the wall first to ensure it will fit.
You may also need to measure the window opening just to make sure the ladder isn’t too wide for your window opening either.
That means most escape ladders can only be used on windows where the majority of it opens up (or at least the bottom half of the frame), regardless of whether it opens from the side of from the top.
For windows with a pane of glass at the bottom but a smaller opening at the top, a fire escape ladder is not appropriate. Not only would you have nowhere to secure it, but the window may well not support your weight, resulting in a nasty accident.
However, there is a different type of ladder for loft windows, such as the Velux type. These work by having a box which secures to the wall below the window, from which the ladder can be pulled out if it’s ever needed.
How Long Does The Ladder Need To Be?
For a loft ladder, it will be tricky to try and measure the distance to the ground using a tape measure. But here’s a cheat which will hopefully make it easier:
Using a weight on a piece of string, like a plumb line you use to hang wallpaper, gently lower it out of the window until it touches the ground (you will need a long piece of string). The length of string it takes is then the length of escape loft ladder you’ll need.
For the normal escape ladder, these are mostly available in pre-determined lengths. A two-storey ladder will be approximately 4.5 metres (15 feet), and a three-storey ladder 7.5 metres (25 feet).
To measure this, you’ll need someone outside to hold the tape measure to the ground so you can determine the length to the window ledge.
Practice Makes Perfect
Once you’ve ordered your fire escape ladder and it’s arrived, don’t just leave it in the box until you really need it. Try it.
This will get you used to installing the ladder on the window ledge so you’re ready should you ever need to do it. By becoming familiar with how it works, you can remain calm and get it ready to use quickly, rather than reading the instructions in a panic.
It’s also better to know now if the ladder is too short, rather than when it’s too late.
But when you do test the escape ladder, don’t climb out of the window. Instead, climb the ladder from the bottom, as that way, if you’ve not done it quite right, you have a far shorter distance to fall.
Of course, we all hope never to have to actually use a fire escape ladder in a real emergency. But one day it may actually save the lives of your family. In the meantime, it’ll give you peace of mind.