bariatric slide sheet

Are you prepared for a plus-size evacuation? How Bariatric Manikins can help

In May, we attended the Scottish Manual Handling Forum in Clydebank and it was great to meet so many dedicated healthcare professionals who are committed to improving safe patient handling.

From Occupational Therapists and physios to nurses and H&S Trainers, we learnt so much from the visitors to our stand and we’d like to thank everyone who stopped by.

One topic was particularly ‘hot’ and that was the subject of plus-size ‘bariatric’ patients and how healthcare professionals can provide the best care for larger individuals whilst also safeguarding themselves from injury.

This challenge was especially debated in the context of emergencies such as evacuation, both within a hospital and home setting.  Often plus-size patients have a range of complex health issues and can deteriorate rapidly. If these patients are out in the community, in their own homes, they can present very challenging issues in relation to evacuating them from the building and into an ambulance quickly and safely. Planning is absolutely essential.

We heard about one case in the South of England, where there had been no emergency plans made and when a large gentleman needed to be taken to hospital, it resulted in a huge-scale evacuation which was both costly to the emergency services and deeply undignified for the patient (who was also poorly).

In this instance, it took 2 ambulance crews, several fire service teams, a USAR team (complete with large extrication equipment) and numerous police officers to get the patient from his ground floor room and into a waiting ambulance.  The operation took in excess of 9 hours, lots of ‘last-minute’ planning and adjustments – and cost upwards of £90,000.

Putting the financial cost aside, it was also highly embarrassing and traumatic for the gentleman who was suffering from chest pain and could have led to even greater danger to his health.

As a comparison, we heard how one of the UK’s leading evacuation training organisations was able to work with a community nurse who had identified a possible problem with a patient in her care. This patient was residing in an upstairs bedroom with very poor access. The team visited the family to risk assess the relocation of the patient into a ground floor bedroom and was able to move them safely in a greatly reduced amount of time, with significantly fewer people and without drawing attention to the situation – for a fraction of the cost too.


Fail to prepare…prepare to fail

We have explored the importance of emergency evacuation planning in previous blogs and this subject is even more important when it involves people of size. It is a fact that plus-size patients are seen in our healthcare facilities more frequently as our populations get larger and so bariatric care is an important consideration within general patient handling and emergency evacuation planning.

Organisations specialising in evacuation can help you to create an effective evacuation plan for a plus-size patient. Here are some of the steps for creating an emergency evacuation plan for bariatric casualties that we have learned online through our research:

1. Assessment and Planning

Evaluate Needs: Assess the patient’s specific needs, including mobility, weight, and any medical equipment they require.

Customized Plan: Create a tailored evacuation plan that accounts for these needs and the specific layout of the patient’s home or facility.

2. Equipment and Resources

Specialized Equipment: Ensure access to bariatric evacuation equipment, such as bariatric stretchers, wheelchairs, and evacuation chairs.

Lifting Devices: Consider using mechanical lifting devices wherever possible to minimise the strain on those assisting in the evacuation.

3. Training and Practice

Training Caregivers: Train caregivers and emergency responders on the use of bariatric equipment and proper lifting techniques to prevent injuries.

Regular Drills: Conduct regular evacuation drills to ensure everyone is familiar with the plan and equipment.

Using manikins during these sessions lets you train repetitively and make mistakes whilst learning without risking a volunteer. It also means the entire team participate in the evacuation drill to test how many people are required and what their individual roles will be during the evacuation.

4. Coordination with Emergency Services

Inform Local Authorities: Notify local emergency services about the presence of a bariatric patient and their specific needs.

Emergency Contacts: Maintain a list of emergency contacts, including healthcare providers and family members.

5. Communication Plan

Clear Instructions: Provide clear instructions on how to communicate during an emergency, including the use of visual aids or assistive technology if needed.

Emergency Alerts: Ensure the patient is registered for emergency alerts that cater to their specific needs.

6. Pathways and Accessibility

Clear Exits: Make your life easier now and ensure a safer evacuation by making sure that all exits are accessible and free of obstructions.

Widened Pathways: Widen doorways and hallways if necessary to accommodate bariatric equipment.

7. Medical Considerations

Medication and Supplies: Prepare a go-bag with essential medications, medical supplies, and personal items.

Medical Records: Keep a copy of medical records, including information on any conditions or treatments, easily accessible.

8. Support Network

Buddy System: Establish a buddy system where a family member, neighbour, or caregiver is designated to assist the patient during an evacuation.

Community Support: Engage with community support groups for additional resources and assistance.


By following these steps, you can create a comprehensive emergency evacuation plan that prioritizes the safety and well-being of a plus-size patient. Regular updates and practice of the plan are crucial to ensure readiness in case of an emergency.

Remember, training manikins are incredibly useful for drills and run-throughs. They allow you to thoroughly test the effectiveness of your plan and reiterate the skills needed to safely move a plus-size patient, whilst maintaining their dignity.

Previously, we have provided bariatric manikins to many health and care facilities that are concerned about the emergency evacuation of plus-size patients. In addition to a 50kg manikin, which provides visual impact and bulk, without excessive weight, our bariatric range includes manikins weighing 90kg, 180kg and 260kg. We can also provide a specialist Bariatric Conversion Suit which lets you convert a regular sized Ruth Lee manikin into a bariatric using water.


If you are interested to learn more about our bariatric manikins, and how they might be useful in constructing and training comprehensive emergency evacuation plans, please get in touch on 01490 413 282 or email to ask about a demonstration.


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