Being prepared for an emergency

Evac-Trac in action.
Thunderbolt teacher Kim Wheeler guiding the Evac-Trac down the stairs with special education teacher Cristina SanJuan as passenger. Karen Powell supervises.

You and your wheelchair are on the 2nd floor of your school when the fire alarm sounds. You know you can't use the elevator because power can fail during a fire and you could be trapped between floors. There are no wheelchair ramps that can take you from one floor to the next. What do you do?

Special Services Department employees and other interested staff members from Thunderbolt and Daytona Middle Schools recently got together at Thunderbolt to answer that question. District physical therapist and assistive technology specialist Karen Powell was leading a refresher class on the Evac-Trac CD7. The Evac-Trac is an emergency evacuation device that allows an operator to take a non-ambulatory student down stairs during a situation when the elevator is not available. Lake Havasu Unified bought two Evac-Tracs in 1999 after wheelchair-bound Lake Havasu High School student Dana Adler said she was not happy with the current emergency procedure. A school staff member would wheel her to a designated "point of refuge" at the top of the J-Hall stairs where she waited until sufficient staff members or firemen arrived to carry her down. Dana's father was a fireman. She knew that, in a fire, it is important to get everyone out of the building as soon as possible. She did some research and suggested the district buy an Evac-Trac. Since both the High School and Thunderbolt Middle School have second floors, an Evac-Trac was purchased for each school. There is nothing that requires a school to have such a device, but Kevin Quill, who was the district's director of special services at the time, agreed with Dana. He thought they were a good investment in the safety of students.

So far, the Evac-Tracs have never been used in an actual emergency, but should such an emergency happen, training and practice keep our staff prepared.