According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 80% of all fire deaths occur in the home. Here is a scenario: Your entire family is sleeping in the second floor bedrooms. There is only one staircase leading to the second floor. The smoke alarm goes off, startling everyone into immediate panic. Cold fear grips your chest and your thoughts are racing. The rooms are smoky, the stairwell is inaccessible. The only escape could be the bedroom windows. You haven't purchased a safety ladder. It's split-second decision time and you have a limited time frame.

Bedsheets: Are they long enough to provide a safe descent? Is there something strong enough to hang them from and support the weight? Is there enough time to make a makeshift ladder? More than likely, the answer will be, "No". If you haven't the means to purchase a safety ladder, you can construct a ladder from bed sheets, beforehand, in anticipation of the above scenario.

Things You Will Need

Eight (8) extra-long fitted twin sheets that are 102 inches long

Twelve queen size pillow cases



Sewing Machine

Step 1

Obtain eight (8) extra-long fitted twin sheets that are 102 inches long. These can be purchased online, at major department stores, garage sales, or leftover from family campus dorm bedding.

Lay them flat and cut each sheet lengthwise into three sections. You will have twenty-four (24) strips of cloth. Sew the top and bottom ends of four strips together; leaving the top of the first length and the bottom of the last length free. Repeat this step twice; resulting in six (6) lengths of continuous strips. Each length will be 408 inches long or approximately 34 feet long.

Step 2

Lay three strips side-by-side. Grasp and hold the top of each strip in your left hand, bundled together, and measure 24 inches. Twist the three strips together, form a loop and create a slip-knot with the tops of all three strips. Sew the loose ends several times under the knot, to affix them to the longer strips, and to secure the knot in place. Repeat this step with the remaining 3 lengths of continuous strips. You should now have two lengths comprised of three 30-32 foot long strips, each connected at the top by a reinforced slip knot.

Step 3

Hang the slip knot from one of the lengths over a bed or chair post. Stand at the end of the lengths of the strips, hold them taut and begin to braid. When approximately two (2) feet of braid is done, tie a basic knot using all three strips looped around and through each other and leave one (1) foot unbraided. Tie another basic knot and begin to braid again. Continue doing these steps, braid two feet, knot, leave one foot unbraided, knot, braid two feet, knot, etc. until you reach the end and have finished braiding the length of the three strips.

Repeat the above step with the second set of three-strip lengths.

Step 4

Fold each pillowcase into three sections lengthwise and sew each end so that they cannot unfold. Lay the two long braided lengths parallel, side-by-side, two feet apart. They should be approximately 14 to 15 feet long each. Lay each pillowcase, lengthwise, between the unbraided portion of the braided lengths.

Step 5

For the left-braided length: Using a sewing machine, sew the left end of the pillowcase to the unbraided top portion of the left length (just above the lower knot) and sew the right end of the folded pillowcase to the unbraided top portion of the right length (just above the lower knot). Sew again to reinforce. Repeat this down the lengths, creating rungs with the pillowcases until you reach the end of the lengths.

You will have created a makeshift ladder, using bed sheets and pillowcases that can be stored under your bed. The slip knots at the top of the lengths are wide enough that they can be attached to a piece of furniture. That furniture should be heavy enough to hold your weight and large enough that it won't go out the window with you!

Tips & Warnings

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the safest practice for home fire escape is to have a plan in place, memorize it, and put it to the test through practice.

Pre-determine which piece of furniture you can utilize to attach the ladder before your descent. Save yourself time and effort by purchasing a safety ladder.