By Brian Zaitz
Ground ladders are a critical part of every fireground. The ability to correctly choose, deploy, and operate on ground ladders is fundamental to civilian and firefighter safety. When deploying ground ladders, it is important to think about what their function will be, one of which is the aboveground access and egress they provide. Going beyond that, other examples would be for life safety and rescue and fire attack/ventilation.
When ground ladders are being placed to windows, this is being done for vent-enter-isolate-search, victim rescue, or possible firefighter egress. In all cases, the ladder is being placed for life safety. In addition, the ladder is going to a window that has a (likely) 24- to 30-inch drop from the windowsill to the floor. For these reasons, place the ladder tip at the sill on the outside of the building, which facilitates easier access off the ladder and into the room, egress onto the ladder, and loading the ladder with a potential victim. If the ladder is placed proactively—a highly recommend practice—for crews operating above the ground floor, announce the ladder location. However, do not remove the windows unless it is requested. The uncoordinated taking of windows leads to uncontrolled ventilation and flow paths.
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When placing ground ladders to the roof, it is done typically to facilitate a roof report and likely vertical ventilation; both cases are associated with fire attack and ventilation. In these situations, place the ground ladder tip three to four rungs above the edge of the roof. Placing the tip a few rungs above the edge eases access onto and off the roof by crews operating. In addition, the rungs are easily identifiable as egress points from all aspects of the roof, if emergency egress is necessary. Anytime roof operations are necessary, it is recommended to have multiple ground ladders to the roof to allow for multiple emergency egress points.
Ground ladder fundamentals are a testament to a successful crew and safe fireground. Luckily, training on them is simple. Get out with your company, pull off your ground ladders, and practice deployments. Get out and train!!!
Download this drill as a PDF HERE (3.15 MB).
Brian Zaitz is a 14-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the captain/training officer with the Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District. Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC as well as instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy. Brian holds several degrees, including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelors in fire science management, and a masters in human resource development. Brian is currently and accredited chief training officer and student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.
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