By Ray McCormack
There is a good chance your apparatus does not carry a scaling ladder. Pompier ladder is the more traditional trade name for scaling ladder, derived from the French. Scaling ladders are single beam ladders that can allow the user to scale a building from floor to floor. In that case, it is like no other ladder in the fire service. It has been successfully used to reach victims trapped beyond the reach of aerials and platform ladders, and to beef up “personal comfort” of recruits to new heights and self determination. Can it make a comeback into today’s fire service specifically for VES or VESS?
Scaling ladders have remained fairly traditional in their style over the years with minor changes in design. Modern scaling ladders are made from aluminum which helps to keep their weight down. If you have never held one, they are top heavy, with the hook at the top always feeling like it’s looking to smash into something - which for firefighters is a good thing. This ladder functions like a giant hook; and can be used to take windows; however that is not its primary function. Its primary function is to move firefighters into windows and that’s where its value with regards to VES comes in.
Think of VES graduating from its present state now injected with additional tactical safety and usefulness: VES-S the additional S for scaling ladder. Using VESS, firefighters could still select their window of entry, clear it and make entry. The scaling ladder would then be placed in the opening. Now the original ladder used for entry can be moved to the next window of choice and the steps repeated. How does this increase our tactical safety?
It increases it in several ways: for those that like to have a physical marker of where they entered the room to bump into, the hook portion of the scaling ladder provides such an identifier extending into the room by several feet. Your ladder will not slide along the siding and fall down because it’s held into the opening of the window. The scaling ladder provides perfect placement, every time, of the “top rung” and does not interfere with your entry or exit into the room. Once in place, other firefighters automatically know that a search is being conducted in that room.
Utilizing the VESS method places scaling ladders at multiple windows and protects firefighters. Should scaling ladders be further modified? I believe they should be further refined just for VESS. Imagine hanging several of these ladders on your apparatus stacked neatly, compactly, and ready for deployment. Once in place, the scaling ladder provides an alternative to rope-based bail outs while providing a means for additional firefighters to enter your space if needed - and leaves the adjustable ladder available for other duties.
The scaling ladder can also be used on porch roofs where firefighters generally perform VES. Using the scaling ladder just placed in the window provides a ‘guide rail’ for anyone to stabilize and increase their footing on this incline.
This next generation of scaling ladder would allow for more efficient and logical VESS. Not everything old is out of style until we say so. Looking back at the scaling ladder provides new alternative uses for a reliable tool on the fireground while increasing your tactical safety.
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