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Head First Ladder Slides

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  • Head First Ladder Slides

    OK, so this is basically stolen from Fire Engineering's Round Table, but since most of us aren't Chiefs in the "Big Cities", we won't get our opinions printed. So here goes, what do you think of the Head First Ladder Slide?...have you been trained to do it? ...would you ever do it?....Have we condemned a valuable lifesaving skill because of a tragic, yet preventable, death? I have been trained in it, and practced it, and when it comes down to it I CAN AND WILL DO A HEAD FIRST LADDER SLIDE!.............
    p.s.- Thank you Chief Salka for teaching me/us.

  • #2
    Was trained in the slide from the PA State Academy, and I feel it is a skill every FF should learn and practice. If done correctly it can be practiced with virtually no risk to the FF. Opponents to the slide don't seem to realize that this is a life or death technique. If you don't do it you are going to die or face serious bodily harm. I'd rather have practiced this under controlled conditions and feel confident in my abilities rather than wing it when my life depended on it.

    If anything, the window bail/rope slide I was taught in the same class was more dangerous. Anyway..my $0.02

    Be safe out there

    Mike DeVuono

    "There are few atheists inside a burning building."

    These are my opinions and not those of my department.


    • #3
      I feel that the ladder bail-out is a very useful escape tool, despite the ever-increasing opinion that it is a dangerouse practice. I have been trained in it, and practice when I can, and plan to teach it to the firefighters on my engine. It is risky, I cannot argue with that, but the knowledge and confidence gained from knowing it may make the difference in an emergency get-the-hell-out-now situation. A rope bail may be a little safer alternative, but takes a little more time to prepare... time one may not have when the fire is lapping at your hindquarters. With any type of escape tactic, the escapee must learn to recognize which method to use based on the conditions and time limits placed upon him or her. In my opinion, the greater the risk of death or serious burn injury from fire or collapse, the more aggressive escape tactic I'll use to minimize my chance of becoming a statistic.


      • #4
        Hey what is the worst thing that can happen? There are plenty of citizens who will replace you as a firefighter. If the slides in school said no to head first slides, so should the ladders. I'm sure you'll use the head first exit thousands of times in your career. When you die practicing it you'll be a hero and get a big funeral.


        • #5
          No doubt it is a dangerous manuver, however this is not your typical job. Firefighting is an extremely dangerous! By saying we shouldn't practice 'tricks of the trade' like the head first ladder slide is crazy. Personally I want any advantage I can get in a bad situation, and that advantage comes from training. There is nothing wrong with doing this if you are cautious, why not tie off to a safety line, we do it often. Just be smart about how you train, if we go by the theory that the head first slide is an unnecessary and dangerous then we probably ought to scrap live burns, pulling hose, climbing ladders, working on roofs, extrications (you know because someone might cut themselves) Whatever!

          Be Safe


          • #6
            I was trained in the head first ladder slide and if I had to use it I would. It seems that what people are overlooking, is the fact that if you need to bail, your already in a real bad place and the odds are against you. Remember any and all tricks that you have up your sleave might save your life. The training that we do today will come into play tomorrow, so keep safe and keep training.

            Put The Wet Stuff on The Red Stuff


            • #7

              Not too sure what language you're speaking brother but as FFD 30 said....explain to me what is wrong with having an advantage in a life and death situation. When properly done (with a safety) line, the chances of dying practicing this is slim and none. I'm sorry, I just don't get where the opponents of the slide are coming from.

              Mike DeVuono

              "There are few atheists inside a burning building."

              These are my opinions and not those of my department.


              • #8
                This is always good for controversy. Anytime we do something new, someone is bound to say it is no good, dangerous, etc.. For years convention said that you didn’t operate smoothbores above this pressure and fog tips above that pressure, its DANGEROUS! Then guys like Big Paulie come along and start showing us how we can do it safely and its revolutionary. The same can be said for many other innovative techniques that have come along. Saving our Own and various other survival classes have only been around a few years, but the techniques that have been developed and practiced have been around forever, its just that nobody knew what technique they were using when a place lit up and they dove out the window!. I really doubt that instructor firefighters sat around and thought about developing a technique to dive headfirst out a window. It seems to me that whether a firefighter is trained in the technique or not, he is going out the window when the building is lighting up. Like-minded instructors decided to find a way to safely teach something that most firefighters were doing out of instinct. Having been part of a development team for a Saving Our Own course, I sat through hours of discussion on risk/benefit and how to teach it safely, if at all. In the end, the pictures that I saw in the major magazines of firefighters diving out of windows and the words of flashover survivors describing how they would do anything to escape the flames made up my mind. I’ve taught it to dozens of students, done it a lot of times and the only thing we have ended up with is a sprained shoulder among the normal bumps and bruises. No worse than any other fire combat class. It IS a risky maneuver. However, lots of things we do involve risk, MANAGE it. Safety lines are mandatory, low level training is mandatory, increasing ladder angle is mandatory, repeating over and over and over this is a LIFESAVING technique is mandatory, its this or be burned to death, that simple! It is NOT for every day, it is NOT for a couple of guys to just go practice. The issue that brings this up constantly is the tragic death of a California Fire Captain. If this incident never occurred, I doubt anyone would have noticed or made any noise about this technique. But the cold, hard fact is, he didn’t do it as he was instructed, failed to acknowledge and manage the risk and ended up paying with his life. If he was operating a Big Paulie or something similar by himself and lost control of the line and was killed, would we stop teaching high flow lines or would we acknowledge his error and move on? To Truck and those who disagree with the ladder slide, what do you propose? When we know that instinct and heat force the firefighter to stay low in the window and he is willing to jump to escape the flames, what would you rather do? Have a firefighter familiar with the technique or learn it as he jumps? Who knows, we may just change convention again and start teaching different ladder angles and placements to acknowledge the need for rapid escape. Never stop looking for better ways to do the job and protect each other!


                • #9
                  I've never tried it or been trained in, but I have seen it and heard about it so here is my 2 cents worth. Yes, it is dangerous, and yes, you might get hurt, but considering the only time you would use it is if the room you are in is about to become very unsuitable for the continuation of your life. This isn't something you do anytime you want to exit a room by laddar. It is for the "If I don't get out of here in the next .512 seconds, I am toast!" situations. In those cases, ANYTHING that will speed the process of getting the hell out is good to know! They key is to train in it safely. It never does any good to get hurt while practicing, that is a given!



                  • #10
                    Now, after replying, I have a question. Are we all discussing the same type of "slide" out of a window? I was taught one several years back where the escapee slides all the way to ground level head first... F--- that! It does require a very shallow ladder angle to control descent speed ( and ground impact speed). The most recent way was to go out head first, until your waist hit the ledge and hook the ladder with an arm around the rung as your waist clears the ledge. Once your thighs clear the ledge, flip to an upright position and slide down the rest of the way to make room for the less fortunate brothers behind you. Using this method, we were able to get four guys down a ladder in less than ten seconds. That's without the almighty fear of burning to death as a motivator. Although I don't recommend the first method, it could be used. The second method is much safer. Are we all on the same channel here? Truck... do you have any better suggestions as to how to get out, yet still stay low in the window to avoid the extreme heat venting above you, and doing it quickly so the rest can follow? Low on the floor, low in the window... makes sense to me- it's gotta beat burning to death. Not preaching... just a question to you.


                    • #11
                      My post comes with only information that I have personally read and discussed with fellow firefighters...

                      one of the questions that I have that I have yet seen answered is how much time do you really save in a situation like this as opposed to using the rail slide...(feet first)???

                      It seems to me that there is a lot of thing that have to be "just right" in order to do this risky maneuver...what happens when the ladder is too steep??? Do you holler to get some one to reposition it???

                      Again I'm not opposed to this just uninformed I look forward to seeing this and doing it during fire school this year...

                      Watch Each Other and Stay safe...


                      • #12
                        Can we make a comparison between ladder bail/slide training and flashover recognition training? If I recall correctly, there was quite a bit of controversy (and probably still is to some degree)when the flashover simulators first came into the fire service. Many folks argued that since the chances of being caught in a flashover in our careers is relatively rare, it was not worth the risk of putting someone through such an intense training situation. Add to the mix instructors who perhaps got a little too rambunctious in building the fires and pushing the conditions (i.e. melting helmets, destroying gear, burns to students, etc.) and there were many folks who wanted to ban the simulators everywhere. However, as the fire service learned more, refined the techniques and procedures, and took a closer look at the way we approach things, flashover recognition training is becoming mainstream and recognized as a usefull tool/experience to add to our ever growing fire service toolbox. So, is the ladder bail/slide any different? As others have said very well, they are both skills that we won't use every day or every call, but when we need them, we need them because we're out of other options. The key, like in any training situation, is to communicate when the skills should be used and approach the training process slowly and safely. Great discussion!!


                        • #13
                          At the CT Fire Academy, I have been trained to do the head first slide. If I ever needed to do it, then yes, I would do it. As far as it being safe or not, it is like everything else in our business. As long as an individual is properly trained and does it correctly, it is safe. And like DeVouno said, it is a life or death technique.


                          • #14
                            Descending the length of the ladder headfirst is much more dangerous and is slower. Leaning out of the window and hooking a rung with your right arm, then pushing out will cause you descend and rotate on the hooked arm. Your right boot will come down and catch the right rail and you start the slide. It is faster and will evacuate a whole crew much quicker. The points about the flashover simulator are very similar, some instructors and Chief's here are more concerned with damaging gear than teaching flashover survival! As for Cap's comment regarding gained speed, with SAFE and CONTROLLED practice you do build speed and confidence. Regarding ladder angle, with PRACTICE, the normal ladder angle works just fine, you are not inverted very long. Another long standing practice is also being questioned, do 70 to 75 degree angles cause more problems than they solve not only in this evolution but "normal" ladder uses as well?


                            • #15
                              How many times has anyone used a head first dive out of a window?

                              How many times have firefighters died doing it, at least once.

                              How often will a ladder be at the window you want to dive out of?

                              You normally ladder every window?

                              What will the visibility be when you dive out the window??? Probably less than zero in the conditions you would need to dive out in. Do you practice in that environment?

                              Or is this just something makes everyone feel good and the training isn't at all realistic?

                              You'd dive head first out of a window you can't see out of???

                              Who in the world can jump and how high can you jump in complete gear? 4 inches off the ground versus 18 to 24 without gear?

                              So do you have really good liability insurance to teach such a topic not recognized by the IFSTA's and NFPA's of the world?

                              Normal ladder placement in a window involves placing rungs into the window. So when conditions are real bad you'll have time to relocate the ladder? Do you tie the halyard? If so you are screwed. So if you don't tie the halyard you can lower the fly. How do you change the angle 2 or 3 stories up?

                              Do you practice this event with wet dirty gloves?

                              How do you simulate the energy of flee or fight.

                              It all sounds so wonderfully unrealistic. Kinda like wearing an air pack and simulating there is smoke in a room but letting you use your eyes. Do you blindfold the guy doing the diving? No I didn't think so.

                              The chance of survival with the dive and without it is what percent different???

                              I've seen side by sides of dive and no dive. Both without smoke and flame of course, the times were the same. The more it was done both sets of times improved. SO what was the opinion afterward.

                              So we kill a few people practicing a silly maneuver that will not be utilized in the conditions it is practiced. That is what makes us great.

                              Do you get a fun sticker to put on your helmet when you've done it like a kid going to the dentist?

                              A few years back FE ran a story of repelling off the end of an aerial ladder, a big name taught it. The fact none of the aerials sold has the ability to absorb the shock loading wasn't an issue. It was an emotional thing. So you destroy or collapse a ladder once in a while you'll have a valuable tool you shouldn't use in your arsenal.

                              So many variables to make it work.


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