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Roof Ladders


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LFB have with immediate effect taken roof ladders off the run while they evaluate safe working at height practices. In the interim aerial appliances and line operations are to be used. Just wondering if any other brigades have binned them? Personally I’ve never used one in anger in 12 years service, I’m not sure removing them is the way forward though. I can see situations where you would need one to hand, rescue from a velux for example. 

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Still on up Noorf mate.

Has there been any information as to why the withdrawal? Defective or anyone injured etc?

What model do you use in LFB?

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It’s following a recommendation from the LFB w@h group. The sop and how to use them is way out of date so no surprise. There’s no sw@h equipment on front line appliances, just the specials. 

e.g - No securing of the the roof ladder, no harness/fall arrest when on the ladder…

Ladders going off the run makes sense to me. If a w@h hierarchy was to be followed sensibly, roof ladders would be at the bottom of my list of equipment to use. 

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1 hour ago, SB6089 said:

e.g - No securing of the the roof ladder, no harness/fall arrest when on the ladder…

Oh yeah that’ll do it i reckon. Used them twice at jobs when we couldnt get an aerial close enough, always trussed up with various things hanging off the harness

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They are a bit of a relic to be fair and I won’t miss them if they are taken off here.

We have better and safer equipment at our disposal now.

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10 hours ago, Healdav said:

Now hook ladders were what got me. Were they ever used in anger (so to speak)?

Yes, but very rarely. They were always (beyond) a last resort. In 32 years, I never went to a job where one was used 

Some experienced members here will not be happy when I say that hook ladders were well past their sell date when they finally went. Some may say they were a relic of the macho 'It didnt do me any harm' or 'show me the bodies' attitude when discussing how risky they were. But there were falls and injuries and its was impossible for you to take extinguishing media or secure your exit route. 

But if dangling god knows how high on a thin wooden ladder from a single central steel hook wasnt dodgy enough, the parapet mount and discharge were bloody lethal. The whole concept of hook ladders was to keep as much weight under the hook as possible. The nearer to get to the hook (head end) the wobblier the ladder got

The parapet mount and discharge relied on walking up the ladder and not stopping at the top. You literally walked over the horns of the ladder. So instead of having weight under the hook, ALL of your weight was above it. Getting back on was ever worse. I recall doing so on the 7th floor of a concrete drill tower. You were required to lean over the drop, holding on to the head of this very unstable ladder. 46 years on, it still makes the hairs stand up at the back of my neck.

They were a useful ladder, but fall could of the 21st century common sense approach of measuring risk 

A parapet mount is shown here..   (sorry about the thread hijack!!)


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They were the one thing that absolutely terrified me. Normal ladders, turntables and the rest were OK, but those things!

And what was worse was, as you said, you couldn't really take any equipment with you. What you were supposed to do when you got to wherever you were going is a mystery - to me, at least.

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Hook ladders are common in France, and often deployed by the Paris Fire Brigade.

As said by Messyshaw, they are used as a last resort. When there is too much people to rescue with all your "classical" ladders availaible. Or when you can't bring them in small urban courtyards, and only hook ladders can.

For now, I never use them in action, only in training.

One good exemple here, Erlanger street in Paris.The whole building on fire (criminal), 64 rescueing with every means available.



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Our firm are apparently big on utilising aerial appliances over the use of ladders, which seems a bit strange to me.

They'd rather mobilise a 14 ton aerial appliance and drive it on blue lights for 20 miles through heavy traffic, (crewed by 2) as apparently that's less risky than 1 person who's SWAH trained climbing a ladder and doing a job they're adequately trained to do (supposedly)

Weird logic as I'm fairly sure they've traditionally had far more RTA's in fire appliances than falls from height but there you go.... Maybe I'm just out of touch.

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I think we just have to strike that balance between risk and benefit, I know we aren’t exempt from safe working at height regulations as an emergency service, however you can’t plan for every eventuality and ladder rescues specifically do not typically allow a lot of waiting around putting the absolute safest systems of work in place. 

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Let's not forget that the removal of the roof ladders is an interim measure while  further meetings, sub committees and consultations take place.

I hope that when the tea and biscuits run out and someone makes a decision - a W@H training programme will be put into place and roof ladders re issued.

Budget of course is key, especially as the LFB havent got a training dept now and its all farmed out to Babcocks. I will be disappointed if budget is the primary driver is costs rather than risk. @PB86's point about the risk associated with aerial appliances dashing about is fair enough, but there's also the non availability of that arial as it's tied up with a roof ladder type job

Lastly, aerials don't hover. They are fine in high streets but next to useless in the 100s of miles of suburban roads. I would guess that less than 50% of houses in suburbia would benefit from an arial over a roof ladder

As an example,  I once requested an ALP from a neighbouring station (it was new then) to help on a chimney job on a 1930s house. The front garden was small and a road down the side gave even closer access. But the operator said he couldn't reach from the front and when reaching from the side, a jack broke paving slabs and burst a water main. We ended up using a 9m ladder with no problems!

Lets hope common sense prevails - and quickly 

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So out of 15000 incidents since January a quick search has given me 11 results with roof ladder in use up here.

4 jobs would have been at least 45 minutes for an aerial to arrive, 1 job had an ALP at the job but roof ladder also used. In total 6 were chimney fires, 1 house fire, 2 make safe of chimney or similar, 1 cat rescue, 1 special service to assist police following person falling from roof. At least half of them would have already had attendance from an aerial station who clearly chose not to use.

Recommendation up here is to request ALP, 9 times out of 10 stations will self mobilise with aerials depending where they are going in the area and crewing, obviously far safer to use one but getting it in and it actually been available is another story especially when jump manned.  Distance is another key thing, those who didn't mobilise and used a roof ladder if they had waited the fire could well have spread in the time to arrival so its weighing up that risk too, in those areas the crews are time served so often make do with what they have and get the job done.

Then you look at Lincolnshire, 2 aerials a massive areas on the east coast where there is no aerial for at least an hours drive on a good day.  Got to way the risk up and scale of incidents and how its developing. 

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If a roof ladder is deemed unsafe for a crew of 5 what would they think of me loan working pitching one on my own then working on my roof.

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I've used the roof ladder twice in my relatively short time in the job. Both jobs were a no go for the TL due to access and were time critical so the wait for line/tech rescue no good. 
I think there is confusion about how to use it. For access, it's brilliant. But for working off, no good hence the hesitation to use it I feel due to safe access needing to be set up. Which again, in itself isn't that hard. Just the line over the roof, tied off, several alpine butterflies and clipped on. Jobs a goodun. But I know that the idea of getting the safe access bag off the truck is a lot of FFs worst nightmare. 

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Let's be realistic as OIC of a roof fire or chimney fire and you need rapid access to save the property or protect neighbouring property. (the aims of the job) you find that you are at least 20mins before an TL or ALP arrives and then the 10-20 mins for it to set up. No roof ladder could easily mean the loss of the property or others. Remembering many roads in London are small and  unappeasable , do OICs now let them burn?

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