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Imagine that you have a difficult time walking or you use a wheelchair. Then you get a knock on the door to evacuate. If you are elderly or disabled this is probably the worst thing to hear. No matter what floor you live on, this is terrible news. Also, did you know that fire engine ladders could only reach 75 feet high. What are you going to do?
If you have a plan, that is great! But like many people, most do not think about emergency situations until they happen. It is too late then. Start thinking about your plan now and review it with your neighbors, landlord or building superintendent.
You should create a map of your escape routes. Indicate the location of the stair wells, exit doors, and fire extinguishers.
Other items you should be aware of are emergency lights that shine the way through darkness. Make sure all exits are not blocked and exit doors are never locked. Listen for instructions if possible. Avoid using the elevators.
Do not wait for someone to knock on your door. Installing a fire/smoke/carbon monoxide detector can save your life by warning you that something is wrong, and you need to react. Remember to test monthly and change the batteries every 6 months. A good reminder is to change the batteries when you change the time on your clocks for day light savings.
Make a list of important people and phone numbers you need to call. In case you are displaced for a few days, know where you are going to stay while your home is being inspected for safety.
Practice, Practice, Practice. There's a reason why schools have fire drills, and so should you. Things happen quickly where you might become disoriented and panic may set in. Again, a fire drill helps practice your plan. Have a fire drill periodically. You would want to involve your neighbors, friends, and the building superintendent. Include a meeting location away from the building and take attendance. In addition contact your local fire department to review your drill and make suggestions.
If you are disabled and you live on the second floor or on the tenth floor, you will need assistance traversing those stairs . Wheelchairs have no mechanism to help you stop traveling down the steps, so one little slip and you will be at the bottom of the stair the unsafe way. In addition, it becomes very awkward for the assistant to reach down for the handles. A great solution for this type of emergency situation is the Stryker Evacuation Chair. It is ergonomically designed for traveling down flights of stairs, and has features to help the assistant.
Other things you should consider in advance of any emergency is to have a tote with water, non-perishable food, flashlight, matches, clothes, blankets, radio, batteries, cash, maps, extra glasses, baby items, elderly items, and first aid kit. Remember to replace any items on a routine schedule.
If you are trapped, stay calm, and move to a room with a window, so that rescuers can see you. Stay safe by planning and practice.