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Online learning a poor substitute for physical training

10 July 2013

Within any organisation the responsibility to ensure the availability of evacuation chairs for those who are mobility-impaired is paramount. However the rise in popularity of online training should enhance rather than replace practical training, argues emergency evacuation specialist Evac+Chair International

Mark Wallace, managing director at Evac+Chair International explains: "In an emergency evacuation the prospect of having to be responsible for another person’s safety can be extremely daunting. Although evacuation chairs are user friendly, there is always an element of overcoming a psychological barrier of actually negotiating descent down a flight of stairs which shouldn’t be ignored. Gaining the confidence to be comfortable with transporting an individual in an evacuation chair is something that cannot be learnt online. Whilst online training can act as a useful resource, there is certainly a practical element to training that still needs to be fulfilled.”

The subsequent consequences of adopting online training in favour of practical training could in Evac+Chair's opinion pose a risk to the safety of not only the individual who is in need of assistance but also the handler who is operating the evacuation chair. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005 outlines that the onus for ensuring evacuation of a premises lies with the designated Responsible Person within that organisation. As a result, a principle of prevention needs to be implemented in order to meet legal obligations; this involves avoiding risks and giving appropriate instruction to employees. Part of being prepared would involve practical training with an evacuation chair so that in the unfortunate event that a premises does need to be evacuated, those in charge of operating the chairs know exactly what to do without hesitation.

Evac+Chair offers two accredited training courses whereby specialist tutors train delegates to provide assistance to the mobility-impaired, enabling them to reach a level of safety in the event of a fire or other emergency. 

The dedicated Evac+Chair Operator Course consists of 3.5 hours of practical training for up to four individuals designed to mentally prepare them for using the evacuation chair in an emergency. Taking into consideration the likelihood of changes to team members within an organisation, Evac+Chair’s Key Trainer Masterclass allows delegates to learn the practical skills needed to operate the evacuation chair and are also taught how to educate their colleagues allowing for knowledge to be cascaded within the company.  

Mark Wallace said "In relation to training, our aim is to ensure that all candidates complete the course and meet a level of competence that will inspire others to use the Evac+Chair confidently under any circumstances. It is safe to say that within an emergency situation, an evacuation chair is only as effective as the person operating it.”

Both manufacturers and suppliers have a duty to communicate the importance of undertaking proper practical training. With companies looking for guidance when purchasing the equipment, highlighting the significance of correct training is an issue that providers of evacuation equipment need to adopt a firm stance.

Stephen Clark, director at Spectrum Healthcare and supplier of Evac+Chair said: "As an advisor on safe evacuation in an emergency, it is recommended that customers undertake the proper training to aid with the correct use of evacuation chairs. There is certainly a level of accountability to make sure that anyone purchasing an evacuation chair understands the potential consequences of only relying on online training, and we feel  that there is a duty of care to endorse an appropriate level of practical training from the manufacturers is always undertaken.”  

In relation to the specific use of evacuation chairs, Government guidelines on the Means of Fire Escape for Disabled People state that it is essential that when a chair is purchased that a suitable training system is also implemented.  For Evac+Chair International, the responsibility of having an adequate means of evacuation extends beyond simply purchasing an evacuation chair. Unless proper training is undertaken, wheelchair users and those who are mobility-impaired could find themselves exposed to further hazards and unnecessary injury.