Werner Built In Fire Escape Ladder
Werner Built-In Fire Escape Ladder Model ESC-330 Review
The theme for this year’s National Fire Prevention Week is, “Every Second Counts; Plan Two Ways Out! Fire spreads faster than most people think, and anyone living in a multi-story home could find themselves trapped on a floor well above ground level. Because fire emergencies require immediate action, Werner has designed a product that can be deployed in seconds, with no wasted time. It’s called the Werner Built-In Fire Escape Ladder.
Located Under the Escape Window
Werner’s Fire Escape Ladder ESC-330 is designed to be pre-installed beneath windows so that anyone can use it in less than 30 seconds. This eliminates situations in which someone must search for their fire escape ladder and then attempt to set it up correctly while under incredible duress.
I had an opportunity to review Esc-330 during Fire Prevention Week and the unit did not disappoint. This Escape Ladder is designed for a three story house, having a ladder length of 24’ 8” – more than enough to get you to the ground. The Fire Escape ladder is designed to be installed in the exterior wall cavity between studs and below an exterior escape window. The Fire Escape Ladder is a self-contained unit inside of a very rigid metal enclosure. Fasteners are placed through the side wall of the enclosure and into the wall structural framing.
The installation for the Warner EC-330 requires a rough opening of 14.5” wide by 10.5” tall. The enclosure is meant to butt up against two studs in a 16” wall framing system. Warner provides a full-sized template to make the installation easier. The figure below shows the ideal configuration and placement for the metal pan enclosure for the ESC-330 installation:
The metal enclosure is attached to the wall framing with high quality Grade 5 fasteners. These fasteners not only secure the metal enclosure to the wall framing, but also fasten the straps that make up the “sides” of the ladder and a handy assistance strap to the enclosure and wall framing. A nice feature of the unit is the inclusion of a layer of insulation material to be placed at the rear of the enclosure to help maintain the thermal rating of the wall. The following shows the installation of the Fire Escape Ladder to the framing:
The force of a person on the ladder creates an upward force on the enclosure and the ladder side straps and that load path is, in turn, transferred to the wall framing via shear forces on the fasteners. It is important to use the high-quality fasteners provided by the manufacturer. Warner provided four lag screws with the unit.
Two lags are Grade 5 3/8” diameter and secure the ladder side straps and the enclosure to the framing members. The single shear strength (according to the NUCOR Fastener Website) of each of these Grade 5 lag screws is approximately 8000#, so in combination, these two lag screws provide a very wide margin of safety if installed correctly into the studs. The other two lag screws are 1/4” Grade 5 fasteners. These will add additional shear strength capacity (3,500#, each), will help with the installation alignment in the wall and will prevent the metal enclosure from rotating under an occupant’s weight.
Deploying the Fire Escape Ladder
Once the enclosure is secured to the wall framing, the Werner Escape Ladder can be safely used.
In case of a fire, the occupant has everything in one place under the window to escape. The occupant opens the escape window and should confirm that there are no obstacles outside or below the window. Next, he or she removes the outside door of the Escape Ladder and takes out the ladder that is stacked neatly within the enclosure. With both hands pick up the ladder and place it on the window sill. The ladder is neatly packaged in a single component and bound with a Velcro enclosure.
Simply pull up on the Velcro enclosure labeled “Pull” and release the ladder. The ladder will unfold against the exterior wall of the house. Using the empty metal enclosure as a convenient step, the occupant grabs the red assistance strap and goes out the window one leg at a time. The ladder rungs are made from thick aluminum extrusions have no deflection – leading top a feeling of security. The side straps are made from nylon webbing, similar to an aircraft seatbelt and do not have any stretch under load. The ladder rungs are well designed with a stand-off lip that keeps the ladder rung 1 ¼ inch outboard of the house wall, making it easier for foot placement. These standoffs also make it easy to grab the rungs by hand when descending.
The ladder rungs are 12 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches deep as measured at the top of the aluminum rung. The top surface of each rung has 13 ridges in the extrusion that create an anti-skid surface. The load capacity for each rung is 400# and the rating for the ESC-330 ladder is 1,200 #. The rung-to-rung distance is a comfortable 14 ¼”. The ESC-330 has 18 rungs to span its vertical distance of 24’ 8”. The Esc-330 can be seen on the exterior of the house in the following picture.
Werner has a great product in the ESC-330. Are there any suggestions I can make for improvement? The only feature I would change is how the cover door is designed. There are currently two hand-holds routed out of the sides of the cover. This design would lead me to pull the cover straight out from the wall. But the metal clips that hold the door cover on to the metal enclosure release vertically. I would suggest that a hand hold be routed horizontally or a handle provided at the top of the door cover to encourage the occupant to pull upwards. Especially in a moment of panic, A design that encouraged a vertical tug would assist the occupant. Other than the door handle suggestion, the ESC-330 is a very high quality, well made and well executed product.
Be Prepared – Have a Plan
Anyone living in a multi-story dwelling with a single staircase should seriously consider one of Werner’s Fire Escape Ladder products. At a retail cost of approximately $150.00, the ESC-330 is a great value. The Werner Fire Escape Ladder can save lives and should be considered a part of an overall family safety plan. Because fire emergencies require immediate action, Werner has designed a great product that can be deployed in seconds, with no wasted time and provides an all-important second means of escape.
Upgrade your Smoke Alarms Every 10 Years
Additionally you should replace or upgrade your smoke alarms every ten years.
Technology gets better every year and if you have a smoke alarm older than 10 years you may be taking a dangerous risk. Older smoke alarms do not operate efficiently as newer models and often susceptible to false alarms. Any smoke alarm that is 10 years or older should be replaced as well, regardless of type.