In my former job, it was customary to have a fire drill every now and then.
I remember that the safety committee would sometimes make the routine drill a little more challenging. For example, one of them would block an exit with a cardboard cutout of flames and warn, “You’ll have to find another way out!” Then, we employees would agonize over other possible exits, trying to remember that chart posted near our offices that showed other emergency routes.
I know: It’s important information and could be the difference between life and death in the case of a real fire.
Firemen use a similar tactic when they visit schools, teaching kids about safety in their homes. Students learn to create emergency routes in the case of fire and a meeting place should the family get separated. Armed with the knowledge, they organize their families when they get home – creating charts and setting up meeting places – making sure they’re following the fire marshal’s suggestions to the letter.
Again, a really smart move.
Now, as far as the Houses are concerned, we have three exits from our humble abode: front door, back door and garage. On top of that – or under it, as it were – we have egress windows that make it reasonably easy to exit the basement bedrooms or the family room.
If there were a fire, the odds are that anyone in our house could safely make their exit – unless one is confined to a wheelchair like husband Carl. A few years ago, this weighed heavily on his mind as he contemplated the one exit from our house that was handicap accessible. In case of emergency, how would he manage?
I, however, had given the matter considerable thought. For example, even though the front of our house has stairs, I figured Carl could use the “curb” function of his power chair and slowly bump his way down the steps. His only problem might be making the tight turn on the porch first, but I still thought it was doable.
My second idea was to use the patient lift, raise him up and swing him out the bedroom window. I wouldn’t be able to lower him all the way to the ground, but my plan was that Carl could simply “tuck and roll” the last five or six feet. Since we wouldn’t use the window unless our other exits were blocked, I’d follow with my own thud and crawl.
As one might guess, Carl wasn’t too excited about bouncing down the front stairs or flying out the bedroom window. So, he decided we needed a second fire escape from the house – one that he could navigate.
Long story short: In addition to the platform lift in the garage (a kind of small elevator that raises Carl and his chair to the door), we added a ramp to the back door that today is part of our deck.
As I recall, Carl began sleeping better almost immediately, just knowing he has more than one way to get out of the house in case of emergency. Apparently, the “tuck and roll” scenario had become a recurring nightmare.
I guess I can’t really blame him.