In a society where obesity rates continue to rise, it is crucial to address the unique challenges associated with evacuating bariatric individuals.
In this blog post, we will explore the prevalence of obesity in the UK and delve into why special considerations are necessary for evacuating bariatric individuals during emergencies. We will also recommend some products designed specifically for bariatric end users.
Obesity (defined as having a body mass index – or BMI – of 30 or above) is an increasing issue in the United Kingdom. Since 1993, the prevalence of obesity in England has risen from 14.9% to 28.0%. (Health Survey for England, 2021)
Out of the overall population, those who are most likely to be obese are male (68.6% of men are obese, compared to 59.0% of women). Those between the ages of 45-74 are the most likely to be obese.
This term is a combination of the words ‘baros’ – meaning weighty – and ‘iatrics’ – meaning medical treatment. Therefore, the word bariatric is defined as “the branch of medicine that deals with the study and treatment of obesity”.
There are currently no clear guidelines on what weight you must be in order to be defined as bariatric. For the purpose of this blog post, we define bariatric as someone who would require alternative evacuation equipment to accommodate their body shape and weight. The majority of “standard” evacuation equipment has a SWL of 180kg or 28.3 stone which no longer meets the requirements for a number of individuals.
Extreme obesity is often associated with various medical conditions. For example: diabetes, hypertension, respiratory disorders, or musculoskeletal problems. These conditions can complicate the evacuation process. Your team must be prepared to address the specific medical needs of bariatric individuals during evacuations.
First and foremost, safe working loads must be adhered to. The majority of evacuation equipment is simply not built to be used by bariatric individuals safely. If the person being evacuated is very large, they may not physically fit in the evacuation equipment. In addition, they require extra safety mechanisms to ensure their safety and the health of the operators evacuating them. They will likely require more safety straps to keep them secure inside the evacuation equipment. To avoid risking injury to your operators, more people may be required to move a bariatric person safely. Therefore, more handles are required on the equipment itself. Finally, transfer to the evacuation equipment may prove challenging. Bariatric end users are likely to have a limited range of motion, joint issues, or respiratory/cardiovascular conditions associated with obesity. They may not be able to self-transfer to an evacuation chair, so the right evacuation equipment for them needs to take this into account.
Evacuation routes, exits, and assembly areas must be accessible for bariatric individuals. This includes ensuring that doorways, corridors, staircases, and ramps are wide and strong enough to accommodate larger end users.
If you are responsible for bariatric individuals on your site, you must provide emergency evacuation training on the unique considerations and techniques involved in evacuating bariatric end users. This includes but is not limited to safe patient handling, communication strategies, awareness of medical conditions associated with obesity, and sensitivity to emotional needs.
In addition to carrying out training, you and your operators should familiarise yourselves with the PEEPs of any bariatric individuals so that everybody knows how best to support each other in an emergency.
It’s vital to develop clear communication plans for use in an emergency. This allows you to effectively relay instructions and information to bariatric individuals and their caregivers in a crisis.
You can use multiple channels for this – including verbal instructions, written materials, visual aids, and interpreters as needed. You should ensure that your communication methods are accessible and inclusive for individuals with different communication needs.
Evacuations can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for anyone. However, bariatric individuals may experience additional emotional distress due to concerns about their size, self-image, or potential stigmatisation. Providing emotional support and understanding during the evacuation process is crucial to ensure their wellbeing.
Simply creating one evacuation plan is not enough – it’s best to continuously review and update your PEEPs and overall evacuation strategies. You should incorporate any lessons you learned from previous evacuations, as well as any emerging best practices. It also doesn’t hurt to stay informed about general advancements in bariatric care, equipment and evacuation techniques. This way, you can ensure your plans are always up to date and you’re doing the best you can for your end users.
Maintenance ensures that your evacuation equipment stays in optimal working condition, reducing the risk of malfunctions or failures during evacuation. Malfunctioning equipment can compromise the safety and wellbeing of both your end user and your operators.
Bariatric individuals require equipment that is designed to handle higher weight capacities. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure that your evacuation equipment is capable of supporting the weight of your end users.
Your evacuation equipment may fall under PUWER or LOLER, so you may be obliged to carry out regular maintenance to remain legally compliant. Regular maintenance can help identify and address potential issues early on, preventing more significant problems that may require costly repairs or replacements. Overall, proactive maintenance practices can extend the lifespan of your equipment and reduce long-term costs.
For evacuations where the use of conventional evacuation equipment does not suit, we recommend the EvacPRO+. It’s a lightweight and flexible compact stretcher system, made specifically for bariatric end users.
The limiting factor is often not the weight of the person, it’s the shape and size of them. The EvacPRO+ takes this into account, adding extra-thick padding for the safety and comfort of the individual. You can also insert a medical longboard if you want extra stability or stiffness.
Why is the EvacPRO+ a good choice for bariatric individuals?
We’ve been experts on all things evacuation since 2005. With so many products to choose from, you’re sure to find one that is the right fit for your end users.
There can be a higher risk of injury to your operators when they are evacuating bariatric individuals. Our evacuation training sessions will set you up with all the practical knowledge you need to carry evacuations out safely.
We also offer maintenance contracts – keep your equipment in perfect working order, and stay compliant with PUWER and LOLER. If you only need your equipment for a short period of time, consider our evacuation equipment rental services.