A practice run
Fire hose could block route to safety at Aven Manor

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 23/00) - Yesterday's Aven Manor emergency evacuation exercise found that fire hoses might be a hazard for seniors.

During the exercise, firefighters had to assist wheel-chair bound residents, and residents with walkers, over a fire hose blocking the evacuation route to the nearby Baker Centre.

"We're going to be looking at a ramp, so (residents with) wheelchairs and walkers can move over the hose safely," Deputy Fire Chief Mike Lowing said.

The position of the hose would hinge on the location of a fire and the fire hydrants, he adds.

Asked if a real fire might mean fewer firefighters would be available to assist Aven Manor staff with getting residents evacuated, Lowing said that it would have to be something substantially catastrophic to move residents out of the building. And if a fire reached that severity, residents' safety would take precedence.

Under Aven Manor's evacuation plan, residents and staff do not evacuate to the exterior of the building right away; they move through four safe zones. The final safe zone is the Baker Centre.

In all, the exercise, which involved 29 residents, 10 staff and two visitors, took 35 minutes at walk-through speed, said Darrell Bower, Aven Manor's executive director. The fire department was on scene in under three minutes.

"We identified a problem (the hose blocking access) and we think we have a good solution," Bower said.

Bower said he and other staff monitoring the exercise "all noticed the hose."

It shows "these kinds of exercises are absolutely essential."