How to Build a Fire Escape

In case there is a fire in the building that you are in, it is very important to have a well-thought-out fire escape plan. The plan should allow for easy evacuation from the burning building to safer grounds. For those who are not on ground level, a fire escape is invaluable, and knowing how to build your own may save your own life, and the lives of others.


  • 2 lengths of ½” 3-strand rope, one for each side of the ladder
  • 1×4 timber, 4-6” wider than the open window


  • Tape measure
  • Sharp knife
  • Saw
  • Drill


  1. Before you start the construction of your fire escape, consider a few things: do you already have a fire escape plan? Also, do you have a window that can be fully opened on a vertical hinge incorporated into that plan? These elements are important as without a fire escape plan that leads to a suitable window opening, the fire escape ladder will be useless. If your plan does not lead to a window that is suitable for the positioning of the fire escape, revise your escape plan.
  2. Once you have revised your escape plan and designated a spot for the fire escape to be positioned, measure the height of the drop from the window to where the fire escape should end.
  3. Double the length measured, considering the knots that need to be tied. Ensure the two lengths of ½” 3-strand rope you have for the sides of your ladder cannot melt; natural fiber rope like Manila and sisal is most suitable.
  4. Cut enough 18” wide steps from your 1×4 timber to be spaced about 12” apart on the rope. The steps should be enough to go from the very top of the rope right down to the end.
  5. Use a drill to make ½” holes in the center of the timber, approximately 1 ½” from each end. Begin installing the steps at the bottom of the fire escape by double knotting the rope and feeding it through the first step.
  6. Measure twelve inches up from the first step. Tie another knot and feed this one through the next step.
  7. Repeat the process until the fire escape is long enough to reach the window sill; use the longest piece of timber as the final step.
  8. If the fire escape is properly constructed, it should hang from the window easily. Test it to see if it holds up.
  9. To finish roll it up and store it in a place that is easily accessible; consider if this place will still be easily accessible even when there is a fire.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice escape plans every month
  • Plan two ways out of each room.
  • Immediately evacuate a building when a fire occurs.
  • Never open doors that are hot to the touch
  • Designate a meeting location away from your home.
  • Once you’ve evacuated the building, do not re-enter it.
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