Access and Egress - To Transfer or Not to Transfer that is the question

We recently attended a talk where the speaker said that most people can transfer or be transferred to a ‘standard evacuation chair’. Who should make this decision, the person with the disability, the university or both following discussions?

All too often people are encouraged to transfer people from wheelchairs when options are available for non-transfer. This decision is probably made on a cost basis rather than the most appropriate piece of equipment. We were recently told by a wheelchair user ‘that the wheelchair is part of them’ and we should therefore try and accommodate this as far as possible.

Remaining in their wheelchair has many benefits:

• The wheelchair user can remain in their own wheelchair in an evacuation or emergency
• Negates manual handling as no manual transfer
• Risk assessments – Reduces number of risks as no transfer and other associated risks are negated

Things to consider

If there are people in the building who have disabilities, then choose the correct type of chair to assist them as it will then be possible for non-wheelchair users to use it, with an on-site manual chair. It does not work the other way round!

It is not ok to say ‘we have a fire lift and therefore don’t need evacuation chairs’, as you still have the problem of lift breakdowns and no means of escape or general travel up and down stairs.

Basement evacuation – powered is the way upwards, as it negates manual handling and it is far safer than carrying a chair upstairs, with the risk of slips, trips and falls!

Cost should not be the only or main reason to purchase a certain type of chair nor should it be the reason not to purchase the most appropriate chair.

There are different reasons for purchasing Access and Egress equipment (Evacuation Chairs):

Pure emergency use – up and downwards evacuation

Lift breakdowns and servicing

General upwards and downwards travel when lifts can’t be installed or it is cost prohibitive to install

So the keys points to consider are:

The chair should be fit for purpose and not ‘furniture on the wall’

The correct chair for the person and their disability

There should be the correct stair width and stair angle for the chair chosen (most evacuation chairs don’t work on spiral or flared stairs) and the landing should be large enough for the turns

To reduce manual handling as far as possible by choosing the most suitable chair that reduces risks

Are they easy and safe for the operator to use and safe for the occupant?

Case study 1

A university is insisting that a student with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and a wheelchair user should transfer to a manual downward only skid type chair. The student’s mother contacted us as we are the importer of the Sunwa range of products and supply the Super Trac. The Super Trac would mean that the student is still be able go up and down stairs and once out of the building the student would be able to go about his business as still in his wheelchair.


What would the student sit in when evacuated from the building?

How long would he have to sit in the incorrect position and in an unsuitable chair?

When would he have his powered wheelchair back?

I know in an emergency you shouldn’t take things with you but I don’t think this means wheelchairs!

The student should have the most suitable piece of equipment.

How many cases are there when the correct piece of equipment isn’t offered, known about or purchased?

Case Study 2

A special needs school reassessed their needs for access and evacuation equipment. They had downward only evacuation chairs and a normal lift but realised that they would have major problems if their lift was out of order, as they relied on it heavily for students to go up and down stairs.

A demonstration took place at the school showing SwallowEMP’s range of products so that they could choose the correct pieces of equipment to cater for their student’s needs. They chose a selection of equipment and the beauty of the equipment is that it is easy to use and the equipment does the work, not the operator thereby reducing manual handling and giving access and egress for all.

SwallowEMP have the most comprehensive range of chairs to suit all needs and we pride ourselves on providing the best solutions. Do give us a call before decisions are made as we can show our range of suitable products at the site and discuss your requirements.

Contacts are Greg and Julia Pons

0121 444 3690
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Swallow Evacuation and Mobility Products Limited