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FIRE ESCAPES
 Fire escapes can be found on many multi-story
structures, such as;
 commercial buildings,
 industrial buildings,
 schools,
 apartments houses,
 hotels,
 wood frame dwellings.
 While designed for a buildings occupants as an
emergency egress, they are actually used more by
FF’s.
 Provides a method of escape in the event of a fire or
other emergency when stairs inside the building are
inaccessible,
 A fire escape consists of a number of horizontal
platforms, one at each story of a building, with ladders
or stairs connecting them.
 The platform and stairs are usually open gratings, to
prevent the buildup of ice, snow, and leaves
HISTORY
HISTORY
 One of the first fire escapes of any type was invented
in 1784 in England. Daniel Maseres, invented a
machine called a fire escape, when fastened to a
window, would enable anyone to descend to the street
without injury.
 On 2/2/1860, a fatal fire in a NYC wood framed
tenement, killing 10 people, led to the first egress law
in NYC.
 In 1867, NYS passed a public law, “The First House
Tenement House Act ” requiring fire escapes and every
room must have a window.
HISTORY
 In 1887, an American inventor named Anna Connelly
registered a patent for the exterior steel staircase that
would serve as the prototype for the modern metal fire
escape. Connelly’s invention introduced a cost-effective
way to add safety to both existing buildings and new
construction in the 1900s. It became mandatory under
the building codes that cities began to adopt at the turn
of the century.
 Although fire escapes were still being constructed
after 1930, they were no longer recognized as a safe,
acceptable means of egress.
CODES
CODES
 Fire escapes are not allowed to be installed on new
building construction,
 Interior exit stairways or ramps shall be provided and
enclosed with fire barriers that have a fire resistance
rating,
 Existing fire escapes are accepted means of egress
from existing buildings,
CODES
 New fire escapes can be installed on existing
buildings only where exterior stairs can’t be utilized
due to limits of lot lines, sidewalks, alleys or roads at
grade level. (NYS Existing Building Code, Section 303.1.3)
 Made of metal or approved noncombustible
material. Wood can be used on Type V (wood frame)
construction.
DEFINITIONS
DEFINITIONS
 FIRE ESCAPE:
 an emergency means of egress from a building consisting of
metal balconies on the outside of a building connected by
ladders to each other and to the ground. Some fire escapes
have a ladder from the top floor balcony to the roof.
 DROP LADDER:
 a vertical ladder normally held in the "up" position at the
second floor balcony of the fire escape by a hook. When this
ladder is to be used, the hook is released and the drop ladder
is lowered or dropped to the ground.
DEFINITIONS
 GOOSENECK LADDER:
 a vertical ladder, the side rails of which are curved at the
top, used between the top floor balcony of a fire escape and
the roof.
 PARTY WALL BALCONY:
 a structure built as an emergency means of egress from a
building which will afford horizontal access to an adjoining
building or apartment separated by a fire wall. They do not
have ladders to ascend or descend from floor to floor or to the
roof.
DEFINITIONS
 EXTERIOR STAIRWAY:
 a semi-enclosed means of egress serving all floors with
landings at each floor. Entry is through a doorway instead
of a window.
TYPES OF
FIRE ESCAPES
 There are many designs, variations and styles of fire
escapes, but they can be categorized into three types;
 the Standard,
 the Party Wall Balcony and
 the Exterior Stairway.
THE STANDARD FIRE
ESCAPE
AND COMPONENTS
 The STANDARD:
 most common found, normally
accessed by windows,
 metal balconies with metal
ladders,
 metal parts usually connected
with bolts or rivets and some
were welded,
 width 3-4 ft., with stairway
angles 45, 60, 75 degrees or
steeper,
 some can be 50 to more than
100 yrs old.
STANDARD FIRE ESCAPE COMPONENTS
 The DROP LADDER
 a vertical ladder fixed to
the front or side of the lowest
balcony,
 held in the up position at
the second balcony by a
hook,
 lowered by lifting off the
hook and letting it drop to
the ground,
 are heavy and can come
free of track guides.
STANDARD FIRE ESCAPE COMPONENTS
 The GOOSENECK LADDER
 a vertical ladder with cured rails at
the top,
 normally used from the top floor
balcony to the roof,
 normally lagged into roof joist,
 sometimes have meal supports
tied to parapet or roof joists for
support.
STANDARD FIRE ESCAPE COMPONENTS
 The COUNTER-BALANCED STAIRWAY
 supported on a pivot, balanced in a
horizontal position by heavy counterbalancing weights,
 weights are either attached to one
end of the stairway or held by a steel
cable against the side of the building,
 located directly below or adjacent to
the lowest landing,
 more likely found on commercial
buildings.
COUNTER-BALANCED STAIRWAY
 heavy metal or concrete
weight attached,
 can have wall mounted
pulley system counter weight,
 age/rust can cause brackets
or cables holding counter
weights to fall,
 designed to gradually go
down as person walks down.
THE PARTY WALL
BALCONY
No
Gooseneck
Ladder
No stairs
or ladders
between
floors
 The PARTY WALL BALCONY:
 a fire wall separates the
buildings,
Fire Wall
 may connect two or more
Fire Wall
buildings,
 mostly found in old tenement
areas,
 no ladders or stairs
connecting the balconies to
allow floor to floor movement.
PARTY WALL BALCONY
 Occupants escaping fire conditions;
 occupants use the balcony to enter adjoining
building(s), (essentially a horizontal exit),
 entry into adjoining building(s) may be hampered
by window gates or other security measures,
 may have to be removed by ground and/or aerial
ladders,
 may become overcrowded very quickly, causing
overloading and possible collapse.
PARTY WALL BALCONY
 FD operations;
 can not be used to go from floor to floor for VES,
 can not be used to gain access to the roof,
 can not be used to stretch hoselines,
 may be found in the rear of buildings making it
difficult to remove occupants,
 adjoining building may be vacant or boarded up
hindering occupant escape, contact your building
dept.
 survey your community to ascertain if any are within
your response area.
March 1912
Front Party Wall balcony
connecting five buildings
260-268 Elizabeth Street,
NYC, NY.
Same building almost 100 years later
Old photo of Party Wall Balcony at the rear of a
building
EXTERIOR
STAIRWAYS
 The EXTERIOR STAIRWAY:
 often found where large
number of people are within the
building, (manufacturing, schools, public
assemblies)
 some have screened fence at
stairway,
 there also may be a cover over
the platform and stairs,
 also exposed to the elements,
 entry normally through doorway
instead of a window.
Exterior Stairways come in many forms
FIRE ESCAPE
STRUCTURAL
HAZARDS
FIRE ESCAPE STRUCTURAL HAZARDS
 May have been present for more than 50 years,
 Exposed to the elements and weakened by
corrosion,
 Neglect or improper maintenance making them
extremely dangerous.
Broken, missing steps,
the most severe hazard
to firefighters
Open mortar joints
or cracked bricks
at the connection
points
FIRE DEPARTMENT
OPERATIONS
FD OPERATIONS ON FIRE ESCAPES
 Can be used to gain access to upper floors for Vent,
Entry and Search (VES),
 If gooseneck ladder is present, can be used to
access the roof,
 Hoselines can be stretched up the fire escape,
 Use FD ladders if uncertain about drop ladder or
stairs integrity,
 Use FD ladders to ease over-crowding on the fire
escape.
Raise 1st
ladder to first
balcony
opposite of
drop ladder
Raise 2nd
ladder to
second
balcony
 To ease fire escape overcrowded with people
Are there
permits for
this
installation?
How is it
secured to the
building?
They are even be found on residential wood
frame dwellings
No
gooseneck
ladder
Multiple dwelling
exposure 3 or C side
Notice vertical ladder
instead of stairs from
balcony to balcony
Hook
Same multiple
dwelling exposure
2 or B side
Typical stairs
Something different
Twin fire escapes in the French Quarter
SAFETY CONCERNS
SAFETY CONCERNS ABOUT FIRE ESCAPES
 Broken steps cause most FF injuries,
 climb the steps smoothly, place your feet close to
the side of the step, continue to grip some part of
the railing,
 Always face the stairs when ascending or
descending,
 Drop ladder not within the tracks and falling to the
ground,
SAFETY CONCERNS ABOUT FIRE ESCAPES
 Ice conditions during the winter,
 Don’t lean against the balcony railing,
 Shake the gooseneck ladder before ascending or
descending, to make sure it is secure,
 Venting debris, especially glass can be as slippery
as ice,
 When lowering the drop ladder, stand beneath the
fire escape.
SAFETY CONCERNS ABOUT FIRE ESCAPES
 Items such as flower pots, barbecues, etc., can fall
injuring the FF, code violation, notify inspector,
 Don’t stand beneath counterbalanced stairs or
counterweight, have been known to fall,
 Climbing a gooseneck ladder is dangerous when
carrying tools or a saw, use a strap or rope,
 Keep one hand free while ascending or descending
to grip the fire escape,
A TRAGEDY
On July 22, 1975 in Boston, a 19year-old and her 2-year-old goddaughter were trapped in a burning
building. A firefighter, Robert
O’Neill, shielded them from the
flames as a fire ladder inched
closer.
As the firefighter climbed on the
ladder, the fire escape collapsed.
Although the woman died from her
injuries, the infant survived.
SUMMARY
SUMMARY
 Fire escapes can and do collapse,
 Many are old and lack proper maintenance,
 One missing step should serve as a warning that
more can be missing and to the condition of the entire
fire escape,
 Fire escape inspection should be a high priority, if
you observe something wrong, report it,
 IC must be informed if there is a party wall balcony
in the rear of the building,
Prepared by
Thomas Bartsch
Chief Fire Inspector, (ret)
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