1. #1
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    Default Escape Ladders and Tot Finders

    I get asked from time to time if I recommend Tot Finders and Escape ladders.

    In regards to the escape ladder, I'm talking about the rolled up chain link escape ladder. I tell people they would have a better chance simply jumping out the second story window then trying to use that thing. I'm biased because of a horrific fire where we found multiple victims tangled up in the ladder. Most people unless they dive head first will survive a two story drop into bushes or onto grass.

    Tot Finders. We had gotten away from these. I'm not real comfortable telling pedophiles which window is the access to the kids room. Seems extreme but it happened on the other side of my county (not sure if window had a tot finder, but a pedophile did enter a child's window). In addition, they don't remove them from the window when the kids go to college. And to be honest, I'm going to search regardless of the sticker.

    What does everyone else think?
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Several years back there was a dormitory fire that I went mutual aid too. The entire place was gutted. It was not a City code to have the ladders, but the property owner provided all 2nd floor residents with one. Every room that was occupied had a ladder hanging from the balcony. There were no injuries or fatalities that night. Made a believer out of me. However, I understand how just as that made a believer out of me, your experience with the ladders would have a negative impact.
    The success of a fire department depends on the willingness of its members to put aside their differences and work for the benefit of the dept/community.

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    Part of my house is 2-story. My girl's bedroom is located on the second floor.

    I installed one of these: http://www.windowescape.com/index.asp I also installed grab bars both inside and outside their window to make the transition to the ladder safer.

    My girls have practiced how and when to use it. No tangled chains/straps to worry about.

    This ladder is the same as our departments folding attic ladders...Plenty strong and it is permanently and securely attached to the house.

    I will also always search, regardless of window stickers.
    Last edited by fireman4949; 02-06-2008 at 10:16 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fireman4949 View Post
    Part of my house is 2-story. My girl's bedroom is located on the second floor.

    I installed one of these: http://www.windowescape.com/index.asp I also installed grab bars both inside and outside their window to make the transition to the ladder safer.

    My girls have practiced how and when to use it. No tangled chains/straps to worry about.

    This ladder is the same as our departments folding attic ladders...Plenty strong and it is permanently and securely attached to the house.
    I take it they are not teenagers yet?? You may be putting a lock on that ladder to keep them in and others out!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by MemphisE34a View Post
    I take it they are not teenagers yet?? You may be putting a lock on that ladder to keep them in and others out!!

    That thought has already crossed my mind more than once!

    My girls are 5 and 9.
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    As part of our public fire education program, we tell John and Jane Q. Public that having the escape ladder is good, but only if they practice deployment of the ladder. Most have them stored under a bed or in a closet with the seal on the packaging still intact.

    Tot Finders: we do not issue them, as they give two things to people. One is a false sense of security. We tell John and Jane Q. that a well rehearsed fire escape plan is more important cannot be replaced by a sticker in the window. The other thing it gives is the location of a child's bedroom window to any pedophile.

    The other problem with Tot Finder stickers is that once the tots are off with tots of their own, the stickers are still on the window of what may be a home office, craft room or storage area.
    Last edited by CaptainGonzo; 02-07-2008 at 07:56 AM. Reason: spelling correction.
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    I put a tot finder sticker on the bottom corner of my childs bedroom door. If the brothers ever have to climb my steps, search my daughters room first. You'll probably find me there too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fireman4949 View Post
    Part of my house is 2-story. My girl's bedroom is located on the second floor.

    I installed one of these: http://www.windowescape.com/index.asp I also installed grab bars both inside and outside their window to make the transition to the ladder safer.

    My girls have practiced how and when to use it. No tangled chains/straps to worry about.

    This ladder is the same as our departments folding attic ladders...Plenty strong and it is permanently and securely attached to the house.

    I will also always search, regardless of window stickers.
    I like that ladder much more than the chain one...interesting that the marketing mentions confusing chains. Almost as good as an actual fire escape.

    Are you worried about security at all?

    EDIT!: I just noticed that it folds in on itself and the user would have to unfold it, guess that makes it much more safer in regards to security.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    I like that ladder much more than the chain one...interesting that the marketing mentions confusing chains. Almost as good as an actual fire escape.

    Are you worried about security at all?

    EDIT!: I just noticed that it folds in on itself and the user would have to unfold it, guess that makes it much more safer in regards to security.
    Yes it does.

    You would virtually have to tear it off the wall of the house (not likely, as it is lag bolted on) in order to open it from the ground. It opens very easily from the top though.

    I have horizontal slider windows in my house, so egress is very easy since the open window is full height. I made a new screen for that window that is slightly smaller than the original. It can be pushed out with very little effort.
    I built a pair of steps that are secured in place below the window so that it's easy to get to the sill. Also, the grab bars I installed are 1" diameter by 12" long stainless steel, so little hands can get a good secure grip.
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    As a side note...Previous to the ladder I now have, I had a rather nice escape ladder (as escape ladders go) that was in a box that was bolted to the floor below the sill. It was relatively easy to deploy and did not tangle in any of my test runs.

    The problem was that it was scary as hell getting onto it...Even for me!

    My girls were able to do it with some coaching from me as I stood there ready to grab them if they slipped, but I don't think they would have ever been confident enough, or have gotten out quick enough in a real fire situation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by fireman4949 View Post
    Yes it does.

    You would virtually have to tear it off the wall of the house (not likely, as it is lag bolted on) in order to open it from the ground. It opens very easily from the top though.

    I have horizontal slider windows in my house, so egress is very easy since the open window is full height. I made a new screen for that window that is slightly smaller than the original. It can be pushed out with very little effort.
    I built a pair of steps that are secured in place below the window so that it's easy to get to the sill. Also, the grab bars I installed are 1" diameter by 12" long stainless steel, so little hands can get a good secure grip.
    Wow, you could make a side job installing these things.

    That's good, i've found a product that I can endorse.

    Thanks for the reply.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Wow, you could make a side job installing these things.

    That's good, i've found a product that I can endorse.

    Thanks for the reply.
    Your welcome.

    This is by far the best system I have seen. The cost is also very low, relatively speaking. There are similar systems out there that are $1000 and up!
    The 16' model of this ladder is $300. It is absolutely, positively PRICELESS if it saves a life!

    I spent something like $80-$90 for the previous chain ladder.
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    Great product, Fireman4949. thanks for sharing

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    Thumbs down

    Although I've had a few brothers disagree with me, I firmly believe that TotFinder stickers are absolutely useless.

    First of all, while some folks have them, they aren't exactly common in my part of the world. Thus, they aren't something that officers will look for during their size-up. Also, the ones I've seen are red. At 3:30 in the morning, they don't exactly stand-out.

    I've heard of folks (in addition to the comment earlier in this thread) that will put the stickers on the bottom of the child's bedroom door. Well, I'm a believer of a systematic search. We're not going down the hall first to look for stickers. We're going to search the first room we find and then move to the next, etc.

    In addition, you have all of the common arguments against the stickers... What if the child changes rooms? What if the child is sleeping with mom & dad? What if the child grows up and moves out? What if the child is somewhere else on a sleepover? What if there is no child and the sticker is left from the last people who lived in the residence? And, if you must, you can argue about the threat of pedophiles. Personally, I think that one is a stretch... but there are crazy people out there with time on their hands.

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    while the ladders and the stickers may have both good points and bad points, I dont think it should take our attention away from pushing, and pushing hard, well developed and practiced regularly escape drills. Once a child is old enough to know what to do. We need to talk to the parents, the kids, anytime we have a kid who is interested in the fire truck we should plug a escape drill. Those are probably the best defense we can have against fire fatalities

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    Quote Originally Posted by FireDawgEMT22 View Post
    while the ladders and the stickers may have both good points and bad points, I dont think it should take our attention away from pushing, and pushing hard, well developed and practiced regularly escape drills. Once a child is old enough to know what to do. We need to talk to the parents, the kids, anytime we have a kid who is interested in the fire truck we should plug a escape drill. Those are probably the best defense we can have against fire fatalities
    AMEN to that!! And I'll add having working smoke alarms to the mix...

    Regarding the ladders, good if practiced.

    Regarding the stickers, more old school. My former dept. hasn't had them in decades. People move, kids grow up, rooms change around and sometimes the stickers are still there...
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    I think Chief KN may be talking about the last fatal fire I investigated in the public sector. Five people were killed, 3 kids. The two adults were basically entangled in the ladder, half of which was still in the box. The bracket was on the window backwards. This was the second worst thing I had ever seen and that fire played a large part in my decision to retire.

    The problem with those ladders is that essentially have to be an Olympic athlete to use them. That would explain why they worked so well in a college dorm. For the most part, college dorms have physically able-bodied people who would be able to use the ladders. They are not so good with small children, the elderly, obese persons or physically handicapped persons.

    As far as the Protector, the company that makes this thing has got to a new marketting person. They would make an absolute fortune. This product takes away almost every problem that you have with the chain/rope ladder. I will be looking to put one of these on our house ASAP.

    I will agree 100% with coz about the Tot Finders. I don't ever remember anyone looking for one during a size up. I also don't ever remember a fire suppression decision being based on the existence of these stickers.

    Some of the problems...people placing them on ALL the windows, thinking somehow it will make us put the fire out faster; people selling the house and not removing the stickers; no reason to believe that during a fire incident that the child will remain in that room.

    If you think these are a good thing and you would alter your search and rescue operation if you saw the sticker...would you alter your search and rescue operation if you DIDN'T see a Tot Finder?
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
    I think Chief KN may be talking about the last fatal fire I investigated in the public sector. Five people were killed, 3 kids. The two adults were basically entangled in the ladder, half of which was still in the box. The bracket was on the window backwards. This was the second worst thing I had ever seen and that fire played a large part in my decision to retire.
    Yes, i'm just about positive it was the same fire.

    I arrived on scene behind the first due engine and while doing a 360 saw the hooks on the sill. I went to that engine and with their captain the two of us laddered that window and he made a very brave attempt to reach in and try to get them out. To no avail.

    This product has GOT to get better press. I'd do an unpaid endorsement if it would help.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
    If you think these are a good thing and you would alter your search and rescue operation if you saw the sticker...would you alter your search and rescue operation if you DIDN'T see a Tot Finder?
    If we're throwing an outside ladder for VES, given two tactically equal windows, take the one with the tot finder first.
    I can't answer for anyone else, just stating what I would do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by quint1officer View Post
    If we're throwing an outside ladder for VES, given two tactically equal windows, take the one with the tot finder first.
    I can't answer for anyone else, just stating what I would do.
    You missed the point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Yes, i'm just about positive it was the same fire.

    I arrived on scene behind the first due engine and while doing a 360 saw the hooks on the sill. I went to that engine and with their captain the two of us laddered that window and he made a very brave attempt to reach in and try to get them out. To no avail.

    This product has GOT to get better press. I'd do an unpaid endorsement if it would help.
    There is no question that that was a valiant rescue attempt. Little did they know that there were three people piled up there.

    Putting that little girl holding the Tigger doll in the body bag that day was about the hardest thing I had ever done.

    To emphasize what Diane was saying, if there had been ONE working smoke detector in the sleeping area, five people would be alive today.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cozmosis View Post
    Although I've had a few brothers disagree with me, I firmly believe that TotFinder stickers are absolutely useless.

    First of all, while some folks have them, they aren't exactly common in my part of the world. Thus, they aren't something that officers will look for during their size-up. Also, the ones I've seen are red. At 3:30 in the morning, they don't exactly stand-out.

    We agree. One thing that is different in Maryland is that our State Fire Marshall worked hard for, and got, legislation that Dictates ONE standard "Tot Finder" sticker for use in the State. All others are prohibited. The one in use is reflective, so that helps a bit, but we still use our standard Search Pattern anyway. We've never used them in our Community Outreach efforts anyway, and they seem to be just a footnote to early Fire Safety history now.
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    Default Case in point: Tot Finders

    When the lovely Mrs. Gonz gave birth to the little guy (he isn't so little anymore.. 24 and a college graduate!), she had me place a tot finder sticker on his bedroom window... which was in todays speak the Bravo side of the house, which faced north. There was a large maple tree on the bravo side which provided shade...

    Fast forward 24 years... I drove by the house the other day.
    The maple tree is still there, it is taller than it was before. The tot finder I placed on the window is still there. It hasn't faded much...
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    Someone came around trying to hawk a "totfinder" but for pets sticker. I tried to point out to him that as a FF we didn't even pay attempt to the ones for kids and we were even less inclined to do so for a cat.

    You never know where you are going to find people, adult or child. Systematic search. I pulled one guy out who was stuck between the wall and washing machine (he got disoriented trying to exit).

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    We don't use, nor do we even recommend any type of decals such as TotFinders.

    I think that 30+ years ago, before the regular use of SCBA, the decals may have had their place. I can see when most initial fireground tactics were exterior in nature, the stickers would give a "fair" indication of the "possible" location of kids in their bedrooms.

    Now, when virtually all fire attacks and searches are performed from the inside, a good search pattern and quick containment and ventilation are far better for the survival of any occupants, than any sticker on a window could ever be.
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