Evacuating any building is a big job, but evacuating a hospital presents a special logistical problem. Many of the building’s inhabitants are unable to walk, especially down multiple flights of stairs, and many are hooked up to monitors or life support. To make sure everyone can get out safely, hospitals call on an entire industry of specialized evacuation equipment.
Some of these ideas are obvious. Others (like the “make a slide out of mattresses!” method) seem ill advised at best. And then there are the ones, like the baby apron, that you just don’t see coming.
The baby apron, or “infant rescue vest,” is exactly what it sounds like. In the event of an emergency in the neonatal unit, a hospital staffer puts on the flame-retardant apron, then fills each oversized pocket with a baby. The design of one version included a cloth baby seat inside each pocket and mesh panels so the babies could, you know, breathe.
It may look absurd, but the baby apron makes a lot of sense. Staffers can carry multiple babies at a time while keeping their hands free. There’s no chance of losing track of a little patient, and the babies get the added security of sustained human contact. Of course, like any evacuation technique, the baby apron does have its down side: Infants that leave the building in the pockets of a staffer have to stay there. And there is always the very real risk of a rescuer falling down with pockets full of babies.
Still, today, the baby-apron market is booming. Hundreds of hospitals around the world have adopted the so-called kangaroo method. There are aprons with pockets for two, three, four, five, and even six babies (a model the Los Angeles Times called a “six-pack”). There’s the Safe Babies Apron and the Baby Mover.
The baby apron is just one of many evacuation options for tiny patients. Evacuation supply catalogs also offer “chairs” that look like shoe organizers on wheels and padded carriers that look like insulated pizza delivery boxes.
Evacuation is not a joke. It’s vital that hospitals have efficient, tested, and practical ways to get their patients to safety. Still, there’s no denying that babies make everything—even danger—a little cuter.