Fire crews across the UK are training with plus-size mannequins weighing up to 40 stone to help replicate lifesaving manoeuvres with obese members of the public.
Produced by a Welsh company, the bariatric dummies have a stone core and are filled with steel ball bearings. The move comes amid estimates that a quarter of adults living in Britain are now obese.
Sarah Hampson, from Ruth Lee Ltd, the company which make the models, said the full-weight dummies are integral for the emergency services as they need to be able to train for intense situations that could escalate quickly.
She added: “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?”
The company also produces 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 £2,000, but they are discounted for the emergency services.
Hampson 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.
Hampson added: “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.”