We regularly conduct emergency management training in healthcare/aged care and disability care environments. In such training we focus on the evacuation methodology available to staff including the use of beds, wheelchairs, shower chairs and purpose made rescue slide sheets.
As with all the above modes of evacuation, the importance of maintaining clear egress routes is essential for any effective movement of personnel. This can be an easily overlooked element and needs to be maintained daily.
We have found that staff in these workplaces demonstrate competent knowledge and ability in utilising beds, wheelchairs and shower chairs for emergency purposes. With that said, the most commonly observed lack of experience and training lies with the installation and effective use of rescue slide sheets.
An interesting phenomenon with the availability of rescue slide sheets is that staff generally feel that they are required to utilise this piece of equipment for an emergency evacuation. Unfortunately, rescue slide sheets are not always the ideal tool for this purpose. Some of the issues we have experienced are as follows;
Insufficient or non-existent training
Better options available (beds, wheelchairs etc)
Added weight of the mattress to the rescuer
Time required to secure the patient to the slide sheet
Proximity to the danger (as with last point)
Behaviour of patient when being effectively tied to the mattress (especially in disability care)
Staffs ability to drag the patient and mattress weight.
As with last point, staff easily tire and are not able to extricate any more patients.
Identifying exits which can accommodate the size of the slide sheet and mattress (still a similar size to moving a bed)
The amount of space required to accommodate multiple slide sheets once evacuated to stage 2 (minimum safe evacuation point) without creating a form of blockage known as ‘bed block’.
Some extremely important elements of introducing rescue slide sheets to a facility would be to carry out extensive training with staff as to the proper installation and methods of use for this equipment. The installation process needs to be formalised and maintained regularly. Any staff tasked to install this equipment need to be adequately trained, and a regular maintenance schedule be introduced. We have seen many slide sheets improperly installed on beds and only through tasking trained, designated personnel with this procedure can we reduce, and hopefully negate significant errors.
Another point to this is the elevated numbers of casual staff being utilised in health and disability care. These members can be more difficult to capture in training sessions and work in different areas more often. An induction system relating to the identification and proper use of slide sheets for any staff member new to an area utilising this equipment would be of great advantage.
The physical limitations of the rescue slide sheet need to be communicated to staff.
Firstly, the slide sheet requires time to properly secure a patient and remove them from their bed. This is certainly not ideal if the patient (and responding staff member) is anywhere near the emergency. There are many securing straps and rescue drag straps that need to be removed from hidden pockets below the mattress. Staff will need time to pull these straps out and secure the patient. In our experience this procedure can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute to achieve. Putting a blanket or sheet on the floor and rolling the patient onto it would be more advantageous anywhere near danger. Once secured the patient also weighs more as we have added the weight of the mattress to the equation. This will tire staff more quickly and some staff will not be able to move a patient dependant on physical abilities (injuries, strength). If unable to move a patient, securing them and leaving them for the emergency responders would still be advantageous for the patient. Of course, accountability for this step is paramount. Remember also that responding service members may not have experience with this equipment either, so inviting the local fire brigade, ambulance and police to a training day would be advised.
If staff can move patients throughout the building, they need to have previous knowledge of where a rescue slide sheet can go. The ensemble of patient and mattress almost equates to the length of a bed so not all corridors, doorways and exits will accommodate this equipment. This obviously needs to be identified in training and this should be practically based (staff dragging slide sheets to exits). Any piece of equipment used for emergencies should be tested and used in training before any emergency occurs. Additionally, the space required to accommodate multiple slide sheets needs to be spacious, yet still maintain egress routes for ambulant evacuees and emergency responders.
As stated at the beginning of this article, rescue slide sheets need to be viewed as another tool to be utilised if effective. We often used the analogy of using a hammer to punch in a screw, it will work but there may be a more appropriate tool for the job.
Additionally, the point of planning for the use of this equipment again points to the most important elements of emergency readiness and response. That is planning, preparing and executing. The most valuable element for this is practical experience. Whether it be recognising egress routes, understanding exit points or practicing the use of emergency equipment. Our experience has shown that the more practical we can be in our training, the better equipped our clients are to carry out their roles during emergencies.
Talk to PRM Training about the Slide sheet training we can provide your team.
Ph: 1800 304 944