If you follow Able Amsterdam, you’ll know I talk a lot about accessibility — being able to easily enter a building when you have reduced mobility. But what about “exitability”? How can we ensure people with reduced mobility can just as easily exit a building, especially during emergencies where lifts are off limits?
Dutch company Tetcon has created a number of evacuation mattresses to quickly and safely evacuate people who are unable to use stairs independently. The philosophy behind Tetcon’s products is simple: “Leave No One Behind“.
This month, I had the opportunity to test Tetcon’s S-CAPEPLUS evacuation mattress. I was lucky enough to test it in the Royal Theatre Carré, a historic (accessible) building hosting some of the city’s best cultural performances. And home to some of Amsterdam’s fanciest red stairs.
Below, you’ll find my genuine thoughts based on a test ride earlier this month.
The S-CAPEPLUS: How does it work?
The S-CAPEPLUS is an evacuation mattress designed to quickly and safely evacuate people with reduced mobility. It is 210 cm x 60 cm (6.8 ft x 2 ft) and weighs 5.5 kilos (12 lbs). The maximum weight capacity per user is 200 kilograms (440 lbs).
To use the S-CAPEPLUS, you need at least one person to help you – let’s call them an “assistant”. In my case, this was Bob from Tetcon. Here’s how the S-CAPEPLUS works:
- First, the assistant takes the mattress out of its case and folds it open on the floor. All fabric pieces and straps must be folded out too.
- The person in need of the mattress — the “user” — lies on their back on the mattress (or is lowered down with the help of the assistant).
- The user’s head should also be cushioned by the mattress.
- Once the user is lying down, the assistant tightens a yellow strap across the user’s waist. The user’s arms should rest on the mattress alongside their body.
- Different pieces of fabric are then folded over the user and secured with strong velcro. Two pieces fold across each side and one folds upwards at the user’s feet.
- Once the user is tightly bundled up, the assistant uses a strap at the outer bottom of the mattress to pull the user (in the mattress) towards the stairs, feet first.
- With one hand on the railing and the other holding the mattress strap, the assistant walks backwards down the stairs. Walking down the first few steps, they pull the mattress horizontally until the user’s hips have passed the edge of the first step.
- Then, the mattress is slowly pulled at a vertical angle down the stairs.
- If needed, the assistant can rest the bottom of the mattress on their thigh, acting as a sort of brake.
- The assistant continues pulling the mattress to the bottom of the stairs and out of the building to safety.
Advantages of the S-CAPEPLUS
1. The high quality design makes you feel safe and secure.
The S-CAPEPLUS is designed to keep its users tight and snug in the mattress. It’s a bit like being wrapped up in a big sleeping bag.
During an evacuation, S-CAPEPLUS users are low on the ground. This eliminated any fear that I’d be accidentally launched into the air. Even down the steep stairs at Carré, I felt totally secure.
Other things I like:
- The polyester fabric covering is antibacterial and fire retardant.
- The fabric covering can be zipped off and washed.
- The instructions use pictograms rather than a specific language.
- The S-CAPEPLUS can be pulled down with the help of either one or more people.
2. It is a comfortable surface to lie on.
Thanks to its foam padding, the mattress provides a soft, pain-free ride down the stairs. Although I felt some of the steps beneath me, it was surprisingly comfortable.
3. The speed.
Aside from safety, speed is a crucial factor in emergency evacuations. I was impressed by how quickly the S-CAPEPLUS could be pulled down the stairs. Much faster than I can walk. If it wasn’t for the fact that Bob and I stopped to talk about the S-CAPEPLUS on our way down, we would have managed the 29 steps at Carré in under 10 seconds.
4. The S-CAPEPLUS is user-friendly.
The cover of the S-CAPEPLUS is clearly labelled. Using the mattress requires just a few steps. This means first-time users won’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out how the mattress works. In an emergency situation where time is everything, this is hugely important.
5. It can be folded up and stowed away.
The S-CAPEPLUS can be put on standby in a custom cover and storage cupboard near the staircase.
Disadvantages of the S-CAPEPLUS
1. Due to its maximum weight capacity, the S-CAPEPLUS is not suitable for all users.
Tetcon does, however, have a range of other evacuation products suited to people of different ages and sizes. For example:
The safety, speed, and user-friendliness of the S-CAPEPLUS means it could potentially save someone’s life in an emergency situation. It’s that simple.
Note: This blog post was written as part of a paid partnership with Tetcon. Special thanks to Royal Theatre Carré for hosting the S-CAPEPLUS test ride.