The following is from my memoir Someone’s Hero.
In yet another exercise of how to control fear and develop confidence while using outdated firefighting and rescue equipment, our instructors sent us up to the third floor of the training tower with something called a Pompier ladder. Firefighters are trained to stick a Pompier ladder out of a window, hook it onto the window sill on the floor above, then climb up on the outside of the building or to put it on the window sill on the floor you’re on and climb down to the floors below.
Instead of having sturdy rungs between sturdy beams like a normal ladder, a Pompier ladder is nothing more than a single hollow square beam of metal about ten to twelve feet long with round tubes sticking out of each side for foot and hand holds. At the top of the main beam, is a thin vertical blade of metal with little saw-like teeth cut into it. These teeth are designed to bite into the windowsill it’s placed on. If, God forbid, the teeth lose their bite while you’re on the ladder, there’s a big hook at the end of the vertical blade that’s supposed to stop you and the ladder from plummeting to the ground. Continue reading