Trending Topics

What to know before buying your next stair chair

Having the right stair chair for the job will make moving the patient safer and save firefighters’ backs

Patient handling in stairways and other tight spaces may be some of the most dangerous patient-care situations you face. And these come with a real potential for back injury.

Take a close look at your loss/injury records and talk with your crews. Find out how many times stairs — especially flights of stairs — are an issue and how many times they produce injury or pain.

Many times these injuries or episodes of pain are the result of bringing overweight or obese patients up or down stairs. Injuries can also come from repeatedly moving patients, even those who are not overweight, over stairs.

Problems also stem from emergency personnel improvising methods of moving patients without the proper equipment. And narrow or winding staircases put emergency personnel into awkward positions and place stress on back and shoulder muscles.

Or, it may be a case of all of these factors converging on the same incident. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the old adage goes. And the ounce of prevention in this case is a stair chair.

Lightweight models
The Junkin evacuation chair is designed for use in confined areas such as restaurants, high-rise office buildings, airplanes, boats, and narrow hallways and stairwells. It comes with 2-inch standard automotive-style patient-restraint straps and has a vinyl cover made of 18-ounce antibacterial material for fungus- and rot-resistance; it weighs 15.5 pounds.

The Quantum Swiftlite Q-110 from Quantum EMS is a modified Q-100 single-person operation stair chair with two carry handles that allows for two-person operation, including upwards transport. The Swiftlite is lightweight, easily deployable and folds away for storage.

Heavy-duty chairs
These models are designed for medium to high call volume EMS providers and have several enhancements over their lightweight cousins to facilitate the safe movement of larger patients.

All of the major stair chair manufacturers offer chairs with a track device that allows the chair with patient to glide down stairs, eliminating the need for personnel to totally lift and carry the patient’s weight. Eliminating the need to carry this weight reduces the number of repetitions performed by EMTs and medics.

The Stair-Pro series of stair chairs from Stryker are available in three different models that fold up to fit into existing ambulance or fire apparatus compartments. The company’s flagship model, Stair-PRO 6252, provides stairway mobility previously unavailable in stair chairs. Stryker’s Stair-Tread system enables operators to move patients up or down stairs without lifting.

The EZ Glide evacuation stair chair from Ferno enables patient care providers to glide patients weighing up to 500 pounds down stairs without carrying or lifting. The PowerTraxx module has tracks and motor that moves the patient. It is available as an option on a new EZ Glide or as an upgrade kit to existing units.

Stryker’s evacuation chair model 6253 allows a single person to move a disabled person from a multi-story building. The 6253 meets evacuation requirements for medical conditions, service interruptions, emergencies and accidents. Its features include Stryker’s Stair-Tread system, ergonomic design and control mechanisms that provide wheelchair-like mobility for many evacuation situations.

Hybrid equipment
Ferno’s model 107-C is designed to serve as a wheeled chair, a stair chair and a flat stretcher. Its lightweight aluminum frame provides durability and the vinyl-coated nylon cover is easy to clean and disinfect. The 107-C features fixed foot-end posts to provide stability when the stretcher is used flat; fixed wheels at both ends permit it to be rolled like a chair or loaded into a specialty ambulance; and folding handles at both ends enable it to be used as a standard pole stretcher.

It’s not a chair and it’s not an accessory … its the Graham MegaMover transport chair and it is made of strong nonwoven material. The MegaMover is a single- or limited-use tool capable of supporting patients weighing up to 350 pounds. It is ideal for carrying patients in areas of limited space and has eight heavy-duty carrying handles for ergonomic lifting — imagine a sling chair without the frame and handles along all the edges.

Stryker’s heavy-duty vinyl Transfer-Flat can be used alone or to move the patient to other transport equipment. The Transfer-Flat has 12 rigid handles, polyester reinforced construction and 1,600-pound capacity. Portable and compact, it rolls to stow-away size.

The Bear stair chair is designed to supplement an existing stair chair to more safely transport an overweight or obese patient. The Bear attaches to the frame of a stair chair and becomes part of the chair.

Once the patient is seated in the chair, it wraps around the abdominal mass in two directions. The lower part of the device comes up from the bottom and pulls upward embracing the thighs and hips of the patient. The top portion of the device feeds through the specially designed slide pockets and once adjusted properly, provides support to the patient’s otherwise uncontrollable abdominal mass.

These are just a few of the available options for your department to make patient care situations requiring the movement of a patient up or down steps or out of tight spaces. Check them out to help make your operations more safe, effective, and efficient for both the patient and your people.

Battalion Chief Robert Avsec (ret.) served with the Chesterfield (Virginia) Fire & EMS Department for 26 years. He was an instructor for fire, EMS and hazardous materials courses at the local, state and federal levels, which included more than 10 years with the National Fire Academy. Chief Avsec earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and his master’s degree in executive fire service leadership from Grand Canyon University. He is a 2001 graduate of the National Fire Academy’s EFO Program. Beyond his writing for and, Avsec authors the blog Talking “Shop” 4 Fire & EMS and has published his first book, “Successful Transformational Change in a Fire and EMS Department: How a Focused Team Created a Revenue Recovery Program in Six Months – From Scratch.” Connect with Avsec on LinkedIn or via email.