I have a 'continuing' discussion with a few people (all of whom have only ever worked with/on ladders since joining the department) about the right way to foot (or heel) a ladder.  Granted I was "taught" the fire service way -to stand beneath the ladder holding the rails- but when I'm footing the ladder I stand facingit (and when climbing I'd prefer the footer do the same).  

I've done carpentry/construction for years and have never seen anyone stand beneath a ladder.  The risk of being hit by dropped tools/materials is too great.  Yet the fire service still teaches this method.

In my opinion, footing the ladder while facing it allows the footer to watch the FF climbing, be aware of any hazards (including dropped tools) and, under conditions or situations where the ladder might slip, allow the footer to actually stand on the bottom rung for additional ballast.

I'm not looking for a poll as to which way you do it but rather, sound arguments for one way or the other.

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Have to call BS on that one Henry. Otherwise we wouldn't assign probies the job of heeling in the ladder. Heeling in is their ONLY assignment!
Just my 35 years experience. My engine does 3600 calls a year with enough fires to keep us happy. I beleive it is safer and easier. I guess, been there done that. Icy winter, rain, wind, never had a ladder skip out that was heeled from the front (w/FF facing the building), I have seen people hit with things while holding the ladder from under the ladder but never from in front of it. Like I said before, I have worked on ladder for 12 years of my career as a FF, driver and Lt. I believe from practice and experience that it is better.
Reg, what are you calling BS on? A probies only assignment is healing a ladder? What department do you work for?
Well Ben you can be hurt in front of or behind a ladder. If you're in front you have an opportunity to avoid the falling object, if you're behind a ladder your options are limited, plus your back is to the wall.
Thanks for all the great replies, just goes to show that we can all agree to disagree.
Over roughly the last 30 years I've done a lot of ladder work in construction. I've never seen anyone hurt from falling objects and every ladder I've ever footed, had footed or observed being footed, have been so with the footer facing the ladder/building.

I have seen tools/materials dropped and -with the exception of roofing material- they've fallen pretty much straight down, when dropped from the ladder. When dropped while on the roof, objects slide and then 'launch' off the eave, in which case they would clear the under-the-ladder footer. The face-the-building footer would easily notice and be able to pivot one way or the other (while keeping a foot against the ladder).

As for a ladder pushing out, I've countless times footed a ladder (often with someone working up on it) with both feet against the ladder, the toes/pad of the foot against the ladder. Seems like it wouldn't offer much resistance but from my experience, it does. By standing on the bottom rung the person's weight is applied in a downward force (thanks to gravity) and is not going to increase the ladder's propensity to slide away from the building but (again, in my personal experience) drives the foot of the ladder down onto/into the surface. It works. The reality is if the ladder wants to immediately slide out (grade or surface, e.g. icy) when raised) no one is going to be climbing it until a method to secure it has been established. Stake(s) driven into the ground (or a halligan), tied off to the base of a large shrub (done that) or even around the center mull of a first floor window.

I can agree that there may very well be conditions/situations where being under the ladder may make more sense, but that can be a decision for the heelman to make based on conditions and needs. Like anything else there can be more than one way to perform a certain task. I think it should be less dogma and more training.

Your post rings with an uncharacteristically conciliatory tone. Disappointing. Very disappointing, indeed.
There seems to be some confusion as to why we foot a ladder. By definition, footing a ladder is facing the ladder and structure. Heeling a ladder is what we are taught in FF1 and FF2 school. That is with your back to the structure and not looking up for fear of falling objects. I just assume that we will have to make a judgement call when the time comes to either foot or heel a ladder. Safety first but personally I like to foot a ladder so that I can see what is going on and the potential problems that could happen.
I can agree that there may very well be conditions/situations where being under the ladder may make more sense, but that can be a decision for the heelman to make based on conditions and needs. Like anything else there can be more than one way to perform a certain task.
Jack - Exactly! It seems common sense and discretion is no longer permitted on the fire ground. It's by the book or else! Sad. The book teaches the rules. Experience teaches the exceptions. What if a candidate did it the "wrong" way ( that being NOT the same way as was taught) and they fail him/her on the exam..is that fair? Something hopefully the creators of the exams / courses can take into consideration!
Good topic of discussion Jack.
Hey Henry,

This is the comment I was addressing:

"the FF footing the ladder is responsible for anyone that is on or goes up that ladder"

When a FF is assigned the job of heeling in a ladder, that should be his/her only responsibility. Or at least that is the way I was taught. Once you heel in and let the team know you are ready, you hold on tight, don't let go and don't look up until you are relieved.

I like to think that my "...uncharacteristically conciliatory tone" isn't so much one of conciliation as it is of recognition that there may be alternative methods or preferences to completing the same task. Safety being the operative guideline.

And as I'm not particularly dogmatic on most things I can certainly concede the possibility of the (occasional) benefit of footing from beneath the ladder. I also concede that the years of experience that Chief Waller has makes him believe that his method is the better one.

Brian Mackie makes a good point that both ways should be taught, with the understanding that one method may be preferred, either departmentally or situationally with the key here being that the individual understands and performs according to such dictates.

While you may have been disappointed by my uncharacteristically conciliatory tone, hope springs eternal in the knowledge that there will arise an occasion in which I may speak with a much less conciliatory tone. Hard to believe but the possibility exists.

You're getting to be as long-winded as friggin' Waller! (And that's saying something).

Of course there are alternative methods, but you knew that going into the discussion. We're talking about the better method. Now stick to your guns, sissy sailor, and stop being so nice - like me.
In my 35 years, including places where we caught fire an average of at least once per day, back in the day, my experience has been the exact opposite.

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