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Palomar Apron : Evacuating Babies by the 6-Pack

Times Staff Writers

In the event of a disaster, nurses at Palomar Memorial Hospital now have an emergency apron that will enable them to carry up to six babies at a time, complete with evacuation kits.

Tina Mancini, head maternity ward nurse, said the aprons were added because of an increase in Caesarean births, which leave mothers too weak to carry their own babies out of the hospital. “If we had a major disaster, they wouldn’t be able to carry their babies, and there are more babies than staff,” she said.

The maternity ward has three staff members and an average of 14 babies. Mothers who do not deliver by the Caesarean method would carry their own infants, Mancini said.

Mercy Hospital has had similar aprons for the past six years but has never had to use them, said spokesman Norman Greene.

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In the aftermath of the Mexico City earthquake, “We felt a little safer about having a secure way of evacuating the babies,” Mancini said. “It’s a nice thing to know you have.”

The aprons are bright orange, similar to road warning signs, and are made of a sturdy canvas-like material that is fire-retardant. The pockets are deep enough that infants’ heads can be sheltered from heat and smoke in the event of a fire.

The evacuation kits at the bottom of each pocket include a thermal blanket, T-shirt, bottle of formula, rubber nipple and diaper. Mancini said the kits were added in case the babies are separated from their mothers for more than a few hours.

Mancini said that with the apron on “it’s almost like being a kangaroo.” She said the baby she put in one of the pockets loved it, noting that the infant probably was soothed by the warmth of her body.

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Although the apron hangs down to the thighs, it isn’t awkward to move in, Mancini said, adding that a nurse probably wouldn’t run with an apron packed with babies. She said the infants are wrapped in the blankets with their arms folded across their chests, leaving little movement from them while in the apron.

Most hospitals in the area that don’t use the aprons hand-carry infants out in a blanket in the event of an evacuation. At UC San Diego Medical Center, babies would be wrapped in blankets and carried out by personnel, spokeswoman Sheri Smith said.

Infants in incubators or connected to other life-saving apparatus would be rolled out in the machine to which they are connected, said Kathy Tyler of the Palomar Hospital nursing staff.


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