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Are Your Tenants Safe?

Spontaneous assistance techniques

Mobility impairments

Someone using a crutch or a cane might be able to negotiate stairs independently. One hand is used to grasp the handrail, the other hand is used for the crutch or cane. Here, it is best NOT to interfere with this person's movement. To assist, offer to carry the extra crutch. Also, if the stairs are crowded, act as a buffer and "run interference."

Wheelchair users are trained in special techniques to transfer from one chair to another. Depending on their upper body strength, they may be able to do much of the work themselves. When assisting a wheelchair user, avoid putting pressure on the person's extremities and chest. Such pressure might cause spasms, pain and might restrict breathing. Carrying someone slung over one's shoulders (something like the so-called "fireman's carry") is like sitting on his or her chest and poses danger for individuals who have varying disabilities from neurologic to orthopedic.

Carry Techniques

To assist in moving a wheelchair downstairs

When descending stairs, stand behind the chair grasping the pushing grips. Tilt the chair backwards until a balance is achieved. Descend frontward. Stand one step above the chair, keeping center of gravity low and letting the back wheels gradually lower to the next step. Be careful to keep the chair tilted back. If possible, have another person assist by holding the frame of the wheelchair and pushing in from the front. Do not lift the chair as this places more weight on the individual behind.

After working hours

Most office fire fatalities occur outside of normal working hours. Here, fires can grow unnoticed and people working alone can be cut off from the normal egress route. In many buildings, only a few people working late and the housekeeping staff are present at night. An employee with a mobility impairment, who relies on the elevator for access, may need help getting down the stairs, but trained "buddies" are unavailable. To compensate, the individual should alert building security upon entering the building. Someone will then be ready to search for the individual and assist him or her to safety if needed. Alternatively, the person could be instructed to alert telephone the fire department as to the individual's location when an emergency occurs.

Managers should ensure that shift workers and others who work on the premises outside normal hours (such as cleaners) are included. If there are employees whose knowledge of English is limited, training should be given in a manner they can understand. Non-English speakers and staff who have poor reading skills should be considered when written instructions are being prepared.


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