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Assisted Living

Evacuation in Assisted Living Schemes

Everyone has the right to be evacuated safely during an emergency. By the very nature of the situation, residents of Assisted Living Schemes and nursing homes are most likely to require assistance with evacuation. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the most frequent causes of evacuations in the U.S. each year are fires and floods. In addition, a wide variety of emergencies, both man-made and natural, may require evacuation.

Emergency evacuation is not as straightforward as ‘just head for the nearest fire exit’. Residents or patrons are often less mobile; they may use walking sticks, wheelchairs or be unable to walk without assistance. They may also be neurodiverse or have dementia with a slower reaction time to fire alarms. It can be a struggle for many to move around easily.

As each scheme or home is different, effective personalized fire evacuation plans are critical. They need to identify who are independent of help or who may require assistance and any associated equipment to assist with evacuation to a safe place.

This needs to consider residents or patrons with physical disabilities, particularly those on second or higher floors where lifts are rendered inoperable. Deaf and hard of hearing persons may be able to evacuate independently of assistance but require a flashing beacon or vibrating pad to alert them to a fire alarm. One of the key factors in the selection of the orange color for Direct Access’ evacuation chairs was the psychological association with life preservers as seen on ships. This, therefore, provides a vital reassurance of the safety aspects of chairs for evacuation.

Whatever the fire evacuation plan in your residential facility, speed, and safety of evacuation are the main priorities.

Fire Evacuation Plans

Consider these points when creating your fire evacuation plan:

Assess your residents: When conducting a fire risk assessment, residents should be rated as either independent, dependent, and very high dependency. Higher dependency residents who will have limited mobility should be housed on the first floors, whenever possible for ease of external exit.

Note any changes: Any new residents and their specific needs should be added into evacuation plans as soon as possible, as should any changes to staff rotas or alterations to building layout or contents.

Ease of Movement: Handling, lifting, and transportation of residents may be different during evacuation than in situations in daily life. Distance traveled must also be considered when moving residents, as must the level of training of staff and the expected degree of cooperation from certain residents.

Training: Residents will be relying on the skills and expertise of staff for a successful evacuation. Fire safety training in Assisted Living and Nursing homes is vital for ensuring your team is confident with evacuation procedures.

Medical Implications: Issues to consider must include: Are there any muscular or neurological conditions to factor in? What is the resident’s weight – what is the best equipment for their evacuation? Can a resident negotiate stairs without assistance?

Will medication, such as sleep medication, hinder their exit? Will they need to take their medication with them before evacuating? Where is evacuation equipment located relative to those that need it?

Plan location: Your plan should be located near the main entrance that can easily be accessed by the Fire Department as well as staff.

What evacuation equipment do you need?

Evacuation chairs allow Assistive Living Schemes and nursing homes to evacuate residents to safety. Different chairs have been developed for different situations allowing evacuees to move up or down most stairs and along corridors. Direct Access’s chairs designed by disabled people are comfortable and designed to eliminate any manual lifting on stairways.

California law – special note In the State of California, the California Assembly Bill 3098 requires all Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) to have an evacuation chair in each stairwell.

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