By Amy Farnworth and Mike Jones
Crews from Fire Services across the UK have been pictured for the first time training with enormous mannequins weighing in at as much as 40 stones – to help replicate obese members of the public.
Produced by North Wales company, Ruth Lee Ltd, the bariatric dummies are filled with a stone core and steel ball bearings in order to replicate the weight of a real unconscious person who is morbidly obese.
And the heaviest model is designed to make rescue conditions for fire crews as realistic as possible.
The move comes as the number of morbidly obese people living in Britain has dramatically increased – a quarter of British adults are now obese.
Sarah Hampson, from the company which make the models, said the full-weight dummies are integral for the emergency services as they needed to be able to train for situations that are intense and could escalate quickly.
She said: “Events like Grenfell have highlighted the need to come up with a good evacuation plan.
“There’s no point in having a plan if you’re not sure you can carry it out. For example, a hospital could have an operating theatre on the fifth floor.
“If there’s a fire, the lifts close and you’ve got somebody who’s morbidly obese, what do you do?”
Ruth Lee Ltd also produce lighter dummies that weigh 14st and 28st, and provide similar products for funeral parlours, cruise ships and airlines.
The cost of the 40st dummy is over £2000, but they are discounted for the emergency services.
Sarah said: “As a company, we aim to make mannequins which provide teams with a realistic challenge. With the obesity levels rising, many businesses can make use of these as they must learn to safely manoeuvre heavier people.”
Fire crews across Britain already train with life-size mannequins in a number of practise rescue scenarios, but the introduction of bariatric models reflects the greater need to prepare crews for every eventuality.
At present, 50kg and 90kg dummies are regularly used in training scenarios, but when used as a dead weight this can feel heavier than the 7.5st and 14st they are supposed to replicate.
The introduction of 260kg dummies are therefore a significant challenge for many crews across the country.
Sarah continued: “The need for these heavier models doesn’t seem to be waning. We sell them all over the world too, so clearly obesity and bariatric rescue is not just an issue for the UK’s emergency services.
“Despite more and more ambulance services investing in specially equipped bariatric vehicles, they often need to call on the Fire Service due to their technical expertise in extricating people from difficult access areas.”