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Chapter 14. Ladders. Introduction. Ladders provide access to elevated or below-grade locations Truss-type beams have replaced solid wood beams High-strength aluminum replaced wood New design technology continued to meet ladder needs Ladders can be used for many purposes. Ladder Terminology.

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Chapter 14

Chapter 14




  • Ladders provide access to elevated or below-grade locations

  • Truss-type beams have replaced solid wood beams

  • High-strength aluminum replaced wood

  • New design technology continued to meet ladder needs

  • Ladders can be used for many purposes

Ladder terminology

Ladder Terminology

  • Defined as:

    • “A structure consisting of two long sides crossed by parallel rungs, used to climb up and down”

    • “A means of ascent and descent”

  • Many different types of ladders

Parts of a ladder

Parts of a Ladder

  • Many parts to a ladder

  • Different parts of the ladder might have multiple names

  • Common terminology usage will reduce miscommunication

  • Glossary of ladder parts on page 417

Chapter 14




Figure 14-1 (A) Straight ladder terminology. (B) Steel spurs on a ladder of truss construction. (C) Swivel shoes with pads and spikes.

Ladder companies

Ladder Companies

  • Apparatus that carry ladders, devices, tools, and personnel to upper levels

  • Tower ladders and boom ladders are included in this category

  • Ladder companies are also responsible for tasks associated with entry

Grounded or portable ladders

Grounded (or Portable) Ladders

  • Complement of ground ladders, sometimes called portable ladders

  • Common types:

    • Straight

    • Extension

    • Various specialized ladders

Straight ladder

Straight Ladder

  • Also referred to as wall ladder

  • Fixed length ladder

  • Found in lengths between 12 and 20 feet

  • Generally light

  • Departments without ladder companies carry ladders on pumping engines

Chapter 14

Figure 14-2 Straight wall ladders.

Extension ladder

Extension Ladder

  • Consists of two or more ladders

  • Bed ladder acts as a nest

  • Fly ladder is movable and slides in channels

  • Halyard – rope used to extend ladder

  • Each section locked into place

Chapter 14

Figure 14-4 Extension ladder terminology.

Roof or hook ladder

Roof or Hook Ladder

  • A straight wall ladder with set of retractable hooks at the tip end

  • Used on a sloped roof

  • Can be used as a standard straight wall ladder

  • Not designed to be used as a hanging ladder

Chapter 14

Figure 14-6 A hook ladder, with retracted hooks, being used as a straight ladder.

Folding ladder

Folding Ladder

  • Known by many names

  • Available in lengths from 8 to 16 feet

  • Provide access to attic spaces

  • Very portable

  • Used to remove occupants from elevator car

Chapter 14



Figure 14-7 Folding ladder (also called a suitcase or attic ladder). (A) Folded. (B) Opened.

A frame combination ladder

A-Frame Combination Ladder

  • Combination ladder used in various configurations

  • Acts as a mini-extension ladder

  • When fully articulated and extended, can be a full fixed straight ladder

  • Can become a step ladder

  • Used in tight places

Chapter 14



Figure 14-8 Combination A-frame ladder. (A) Used as a short extension ladder. (B) Being converted from an extension ladder to an A-frame stepladder.

Chapter 14


Figure 14-8 (cont’d.) Combination A-frame ladder. (C) In the A-frame stepladder mode.

Use and care

Use and Care

  • Care must be employed to prevent ladder damage

  • NFPA Standard 1932 covers use, maintenance, and service testing of ground ladders

Chapter 14

Table 14-1 Ground Ladder Tips

Maintenance cleaning and inspection

Maintenance, Cleaning,and Inspection

  • Ladders should be inspected at regular intervals

  • Certification label must be affixed

  • Ladders needing repair are removed from service

  • Work beyond general maintenance performed by trained technicians

Chapter 14

Table 14-2 General Inspection Guidelines

Chapter 14

Table 14-3 Extension Ladder Inspection Guidelines

Cleaning ladders

Cleaning Ladders

  • Dirt and caustic substances act as an abrasive

  • Warm soapy detergent and scrub brush will remove most dirt

  • Manufacturer’s recommendations should be consulted

Ladder uses

Ladder Uses

  • Primarily used for climbing

  • Used for many purposes:

    • Shoring tool

    • Fence

    • Hold back loose debris

    • Chute to channel water



  • Most obvious use

  • Provides a path otherwise inaccessible

  • Can be used to descend into an opening



  • Extracting a victim

  • Use of ladders that is employed least often

Salvage operations

Salvage Operations

  • Used as a tool to support salvage covers

  • Protect hoselines from falling glass



  • Hook or roof ladder

  • Provides footing for firefighters on sloped roofs



  • Can take place in two ways

    • Firefighter can use ladder to remove glass with a tool from elevated position

    • Ladder itself can be used as the tool

  • Safety must be paramount



  • Ladder can be an effective bridge between two points

  • Supports weight over a weakened floor

  • Bedded extension ladder is safest

Elevated streams

Elevated Streams

  • Ground ladders are still an option to provide water from an exterior location

  • Used when no other approach to fire is available

Elevated work position

Elevated Work Position

  • Serve as exterior work platform

  • Need to remove something or check for heat during overhauling

Ladder selection

Ladder Selection

  • Once target is identified, ask these questions:

    • What length of ladder is necessary?

    • What will be done with the ladder?

    • Will ladder be used at several locations?

    • Is a straight or extension ladder needed?

  • Some additional considerations:

    • Ground condition

    • Accessibility of location

    • Available personnel

Butt section

Butt Section

  • If ground slopes, raising a ladder might be impossible

  • 75 degrees is the proper climbing angle

  • Placed directly under the target

  • Butt should be carried in the direction of the target

Fly section

Fly Section

  • Tip of fly dictates how ladder will be used

  • Several specific locations where placement of tip will be important:

    • Windows

    • Roof level

    • Fire escapes

Chapter 14



Figure 14-9 (A) Ladder placed with the tip below the windowsill. (B) Ladder placed with the tip at the top of the windowsill to either side.

Special uses

Special Uses

  • Can be used as tools or as portable stairs

  • Ladder integrity must not be compromised

Removal of numerous victims

Removal of Numerous Victims

  • Method:

    • Raise ladder

    • Ascend and secure victim onto ladder

    • Descend escorting victim

  • For several victims, use two or more ladders

  • One “supply” ladder can service many escape ladders

Chapter 14

Figure 14-11 Multiple ladder rescue technique.

Chute with a tarp

Chute with a Tarp

  • Prevent water damage

  • Ladder with tarp used as a makeshift chute to direct water out a window

Figure 14-12 Ladder with salvage cover, plastic sheet, or tarpaulin used as a chute to divert and discharge water.

Over a fence

Over a Fence

  • Two short ladders tied together in an A-frame can be used to climb over fences

  • There are times a fence cannot be cut

Figure 14-13 Ladders can be used to climb over a high fence.

Elevated hose streams

Elevated Hose Streams

  • Used in locations that could not be approached conventionally

  • Basic safety practices must be employed:

    • Firefighter and hose must be secured to ladder

    • Ladder must be stabilized at base or tip

Chapter 14

Figure 14-14 A handline can be used off a ground ladder for difficult-to-reach areas. Note the use of a ladder belt.

Portable pool

Portable Pool

  • Three or four ladders can be tied together to form a crib and lined with a tarp

    • Filled with water

    • Used to capture runoff

Figure 14-15 Ladders can be turned into an emergency water pool or collection area.



  • Tied off to secure dangerous areas

  • Provides a positive visual deterrent as well as a physical mechanism to prevent passing

Figure 14-16 A ladder can be used as a barrier.



  • With ropes a ladder can secure objects as an emergency structural stabilizer

  • Should be replaced as soon as possible with tools designed for the situation

Figure 14-17 Ladder used as a shoring tool. A ladder secured to substantial objects by ropes can assist in stabilizing a structural defect as an emergency measure.

Hoist point

Hoist Point

  • Set of ladders tied off at tip and at base into an A-frame

  • Pulley and rope are attached to apex

  • Ladder weight limits should not be exceeded

Figure 14-18 A-frame hoist.

Ventilation fan supports

Ventilation Fan Supports

  • Short ladder spanning an opening can support a ventilation fan or blower

  • Innovation must be tempered with safety

Figure 14-19 A ladder can be used to support a fan in a doorway.



  • Equated with common sense

  • Use gloves

  • Use correct ladder

  • Overhead wires must be considered “live”

  • When moving on a ladder, firefighter should keep three limbs in contact

Overhead obstructions

Overhead Obstructions

  • Carry injury potential:

    • Tree limbs, structural overhangs

    • Television and telephone wires

    • Overhead electrical lines

Figure 14-20 A ladder can make an electrical connection to ground.

Climbing path

Climbing Path

  • Imaginary passageway a firefighter climbs through while ascending ladder

  • Obstructed climbing paths:

    • Firefighter is required to alter normal climbing angle

    • Squeeze through a tight space

  • Breathing apparatus must be considered when estimating space

Chapter 14

Figure 14-21 “Climbing path” pass-through area.

Ground considerations

Ground Considerations

  • Ladder must be stable, ground must be level

  • Cannot create a dangerous lateral lean

Figure 14-22 Uneven ground effect is magnified as the ladder increases in height.

Ladder load

Ladder Load

  • Number of people permitted on ladder at one time will vary

  • Load capacity based on weight

  • Recommended maximum load found on label affixed to ladder

Chapter 14

Figure 14-23 Ladders must be positioned properly and not overloaded.

Working off a ladder

Working Off a Ladder

  • Firefighter secured to ladder

    • Ladder belts

    • Safety harness

    • Leg lock

Figure 14-25 Leg lock.

Ladder storage

Ladder Storage

  • Supported by more than two support points

  • Should be stored on a flat surface

  • Avoid using the same contact points when storing ladder

Apparatus ladder storage

Apparatus Ladder Storage

  • Should be stored under cover in compartments

  • De-icing products on ladders during inclement weather

Ladder apparatus parking

Ladder Apparatus Parking

  • Place ladder apparatus at an angle to the fire building

  • Ladders need to be easily accessible and removed



Figure 14-27 (A) It is important to leave room to remove portable ground ladders. (B) Parking apparatus can impede ladder access: parking on an angle can be a simple solution.

Ladder painting

Ladder Painting

  • Should never be painted as a means of maintenance

  • Only small areas should be painted:

    • Identification

    • Visibility

    • Quick reference

    • Hoist points

Certification and testing procedures

Certification andTesting Procedures

  • NFPA Standard 1931 outlines specific procedures for ladder testing and certification

  • When ladder model is designed, rigid testing is needed

  • Ladder label attests that ladder is in compliance with NFPA and OSHA guidelines

Ladder skills

Ladder Skills

  • Without common terminology and technique, the moving and positioning of ladders can be chaotic

  • Commands should be established by local department policy

  • Basic commands relying on common sense should be the norm

Carrying ladders

Carrying Ladders

  • Several techniques used for carrying ladders:

    • Suitcase carry

    • Shoulder carry

    • Flat carry

  • Single firefighter can carry a small ladder individually

  • Many types of techniques used when dealing with a victim on a ladder

Raising ladders

Raising Ladders

  • Several considerations must be weighed:

    • Heel of ladder must be a calculated distance from building

    • Ideally, climbing angle should be about 75 degrees

  • Number of firefighters needed to raise a ladder will vary

  • Most situations call for two firefighters

Chapter 14

Figure 14-29 The working length is the distance from the ground to the point where the ladder contacts the building. The ladder is placed at a point approximately one-quarter of the working length from the building.

Rung and beam raises

Rung and Beam Raises

  • Two methods of raising a ladder:

    • Two-person rung raise

    • Two-person beam raise

  • Raising an extension ladder:

    • Fly extension raise

    • Three-person raise

  • Four-person ladder raise safer than three-person raise

    • One firefighter should never bring down a ladder

Chapter 14



Figure 14-30 (A) Beam raise. (B) Rung raise.

Leg lock

Leg Lock

  • Used to secure firefighter to ladder

  • Both hands are needed to perform a task

  • Ladder belt is not available

  • Second alternate leg lock known as hyper-extended leg lock

Carrying tools

Carrying Tools

  • When carrying tools, security is sacrificed

  • Tools should be passed up to another firefighter first

  • Tools can be hung on an upper rung and climbed to

  • Tools can ride up the rails of an aerial ladder

Mounting and dismounting

Mounting and Dismounting

  • Getting on and off a ladder is the most difficult action for the uninitiated

    • As height increases so does fear of falling

    • If ladder is not secured by rope, it should be heeled by another firefighter

    • When climbing into a window from a ladder, two methods are used

    • Special care should be observed when mounting or dismounting ladder from ornamental works

Roof and ladder deployment

Roof and Ladder Deployment

  • Raised to the eave of the roof directly under desired access point

  • Hook ladder is raised alongside pre-positioned ladder using beam-raise method

Hoisting ladders by rope

Hoisting Ladders by Rope

  • Need to use ladder from elevated location might arise

    • Hoisting ladder by rope

  • When lowering ladder, procedure is reversed

Types of truck mounted ladders

Types of Truck-Mounted Ladders

  • Many types of ladder trucks are used today

  • Each designed to serve a particular function

Aerial ladder

Aerial Ladder

  • Apparatus-mounted ladder capable of reaching heights of 100 feet

  • Various sections slide out from one another to produce greater reach

  • Ladder’s reach achieved through use of cables and pulleys

Chapter 14

Figure 14-38 Aerial ladder raising mechanisms as seen from under a raised bed ladder.

Chapter 14

Figure 14-39 Ladder positioning terminology.

Tower ladder

Tower Ladder

  • Standard piece of equipment in moderate to large departments

  • Telescopic boom with mounted basket

  • Affords people who suffer from a fear of heights

  • Takes slightly longer to place into operation

Chapter 14

Figure 14-41 Tower ladder.

Articulating boom ladder

Articulating Boom Ladder

  • Also called snorkel ladder

  • Among the first designs for elevated platform use

  • Uses several articulating booms

  • Can also be used as an elevated water application platform or observation point

Chapter 14

Figure 14-42 A snorkel basket can reach places not possible with other types of apparatus.

Lessons learned

Lessons Learned

  • Ladders have many applications

  • Different types of ladders are designed for a specific use

  • Ladder use is packed with additional dangers that each firefighter must respect

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