If the worst happens and fire breaks out when you're home alone, are you prepared to act quickly?When someone yells "Fire!" people generally listen! They get ready to either (a) panic or (b) act quickly and decisively. That's why right now is a perfect time to read this article and think about what you could do, should the worst ever happen.
— Install smoke alarms. Hard-wired ones are best.
— Practice using your phone or call systems—when you're up or in bed.
— Practice opening windows: your bedroom window, as well as any first-floor windows that may be part of your alternate escape route.
— If there is any way you can master getting from your bed to your chair, do it.
— Practice safely "falling" from your bed to the floor, as well as getting from your wheelchair to the floor. There are right and wrong ways to do this; work with a therapist, with pads or mattresses on the floor.
— If you have the strength, learn "combat crawling"—pulling yourself forward with your arms and elbows, while on your stomach. Practice rolling, too. For both activities, pad the floor. Save the part where you practice actually crawling down the stairs or a ramp for a "real" emergency.
— If one of your exits includes a short staircase with handrails and if your arm strength is fairly good, practice backing yourself down the stairs in your wheelchair. Keep your hands on the rails, lean way forward, give a little push—and gravity should do the rest. It's noisy, scary, and jarring. And, how successful and safely you can do it depends on the stairs' design, the length of your chair's foot rests, etc., so do this only with a spotter behind you—someone who's holding onto the railings and is ready to stop the chair if need be. Save the "solo flight" for when you really need it.
Once you've mastered all the pieces, practice your entire evacuation plan using at least two different routes.
Review all these suggestions and your own options. Make a plan that fits your situation. Share this with others close to you, so they know what to do in an emergency and what they can expect you to do.
Finally, and most important, practice your plan. Practice those things that you can do safely and without injury; use a spotter when necessary. If you?re likely to get hurt in your "fire drill," don?t take the chance; just plan those things out in your mind instead.
And remember: Fire is a big risk, but it's also a pretty unlikely one. You know how it goes: The more prepared you are, the less likely it will ever happen!
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