EVACUATING WHEELCHAIR USERS
All Wheelchair Users
- Discuss with the user of the wheelchair how to lift the user and the wheelchair ether together or separately. When circumstances necessitate separating the user and the wheelchair, keep the period of separation to a minimum.
- Some parts of a wheelchair are safe to lift from, others will come off when lifted. Always ask the user to confirm where it is safe to lift. Also, ask the user what else about his or her wheelchair you should know in order to lift it safely.
- Wheelchairs with four wheels (not three-wheeled scooters) usually have handbrakes on each side of the chair. When the wheelchair is to remain stationary, set both brakes.
- When more than one flight of stairs is traversed, helpers may need to switch positions since one person may be doing most of the lifting. Switch positions only on a level landing.
- When the lifting is complete, follow the instructions of the chair's user and restore the manual or motorized wheelchair to full operation; then direct the user to a safe area.
Manual (non-motorized) Wheelchairs
- Manual chairs weigh between 20 and 60 pounds. Two people are required to lift a manual wheelchair when occupied by the user.
- Generally, the best way to lift the chair and user together is to position one helper behind the chair and the other helper in front. The helper behind the wheelchair tips it backwards to a balance angle that is tolerable to the user. The other helper grasps the front of the wheelchair and guides its movement. The two helpers lower or raise the wheelchair one step at a time, making sure both rear tires hit step edges evenly.
- Motorized wheelchairs can weigh up to 100 pounds (un-occupied), and may be longer and heavier to push than manual wheelchairs. Some motorized chairs have additional electrical equipment such as a respirator or a communications device.
- Lifting a motorized chair and user up or down stairs requires two to four helpers. Before lifting, discuss with the user if some heavy parts of the chair can be detached temporarily, how to position the helpers, where they should grab hold, and at what if any angle to tip the chair backward. Turn the chair's power off before lifting the chair.
- If the chair's power drive is temporarily detached, the chair becomes "free wheeling". Helpers must realize they are entirely responsible for the safety of the user since the user of a motorized wheelchair generally lacks the arm function to control the chair's movement.
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