Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What to Buy for Christmas: Emergency fire escape ladders

The problem with worst-case scenarios is that they are never the "worst case". You would never expect, for example, that someone might not only torch the apartment building that you are living in, but would do it in such a way that all of the escapes were effectively cut off - except for your windows. You would never expect someone, someone unknown and unconnected to you in any way, to anonymously try to murder you and everyone else in your building in order to cover up any possible evidence of a relatively minor theft a few weeks earlier, a theft of a credit card number that resulted in a fraudulent purchase of a jacket valued at about $100. You would never expect that you would find yourself hanging out the window of your third-story apartment as the building was consumed by flame and your hands are gradually seared off, knowing that to let go is to accept the very real possibility of death from the result of a fall, and to hold on is to accept the certainty of death in the fire.

But it happened. It happened on December 21, 1994. It happened to Whim from The Babblings of Whimsicalbrainpan. If you haven't read her account of The Fire and its aftermath, please do so. Now. We'll wait for you.


OK, let's continue.

Douglas Adams said that predicting the future is a mug's game. Second-guessing the past is, too, but is even less profitable. What benefit can be gained by asking "You know what would have been great?" Unless you can somehow benefit from it in the future.

You know what would have been great? If Whim had had an emergency fire escape ladder available to her. These are compact devices designed to be kept at a window that can be used as an escape route. At first glance they seem expensive - a 3-story model on Amazon has a list price of $79.99 - but they are absolutely cheap when compared to the alternative.

How would Whim's story been different if she had been able to get 25 feet closer to the ground, 25 feet farther from her burning apartment? If she had been holding onto the rungs of a ladder rather than the windowsill of her apartment?

I hesitated to write this until I got Whim's permission. It's one thing to play the "What if this had been different?" game in general, but it's quite another to play it with someone else's life. But I really wanted to get this recommendation out there. And when I mentioned it to Whim, she gave her permission right away.

Not everybody needs something like this. Not everyone has a bedroom on an upper floor, or has no way of getting to the ground other than a precipitous drop. But for those who do, having an emergency means of escape can make a whole lifetime of difference. Please think about it.

UPDATE, 12/9/07: Aw, hell. I had the link to Whim's account of The Fire screwed up. It's fixed now.


whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Thanks for posting this D.B.

Anyone who sleeps on an upper floor should have one of those ladders if they don't have a fire escape.

Michelle D said...

I think this is a very responsible thing to post. I was also going to suggest a Carbon Monoxide detector, a few years ago, a co-worker/friend of mine had to be wheeled out in an ambulance due to Carbon Monoxide inhalation. Anything that promotes safety is a good gift.

I also think the Spot -- would be a good thing for hunters, possibly dimentia patients, fishers, hikers, anyone that would have the potential to get lost. From what I read, its sorta like a GPS that sends off a signal telling other people where you are, if you do get lost. Pretty good idea, I think.

Whim, DB sent me your link a few weeks ago and I read the whole story, I just wanted to say that I was not able to stop reading until I reached the end. Incredible story. You really should write a book, if you aren't already. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Geez!! This comment turned out to be a mini blog, within your blog.

hedera said...

I thought about this after reading whim's story. Like michelle d, I couldn't quit till the end. I got as far as asking my husband about it and got a grump where would we put it? And I dropped it. I think I'll pick the idea up again. Thanks.