The advancing age of many elevators and decreased preventative maintenance have recently given rise to the number of elevator failures, such as stalled cars. Nevertheless, elevators remain an exceedingly safe mode of transportation, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission reporting an average associated fatality rate of just 0.00000015% per trip, which represents a total of 27 deaths per year resulting from 18 billion rides. This statistic positions elevator rides as safer than vehicles, airplanes or even stairs
Elevator manufacturers stake their reputation on safety, investing considerable resources into redundant systems to help protect elevator occupants. Nevertheless, elevators occasionally malfunction and even break down. Safety malfunctions can involve doors, buttons, cables, and additional components.
Here are a few facts about elevator safety:
- Recall given for Porta elevators. The recall was necessary due to faulty electro mechanical door locks.
- Otis elevator operates a 38-story elevator test facility in Bristol, Connecticut to properly test cars, cables, and motors.
- Elevators manufactured by ThyssenKrupp elevator doors were opening between floors, exposing people to the elevator shaft.
- Firefighter Emergency Operations (FEO) transfers control and accessibility of elevator cabs from the public to firefighters during emergencies. Removing public access to elevators in emergencies reduces the possibility of injury or death resulting from cars that accidentally open up on a floor that has an active fire.
Core safety features of modern elevators:
- Electromagnetic brakes are used to keep the car in place, and will automatically snap shut if the elevator system loses electrical power. Modern elevators also feature braking systems located at the top and bottom of the elevator shaft, which can detect excessive elevator movement and apply brakes, when necessary.
- Despite the common Hollywood movie scene of an elevator cable snapping and elevator car plummeting, this scenario is unrealistic. Elevator cables are comprised of sturdy steel strands, which have been designed to single-handedly support the entire weight of the car and occupants. Each elevator contains between four and eight cables for each car, which provides multiple levels of redundancy.
Stuck in a Tin Can
As alarming as it can be, getting stuck in an elevator is rarely a life-threatening situation. Elevators occasionally get stuck. But even when this occurs, core safety systems remain intact.
Elevator safety tips:
- In any emergency such as an earthquake, fire or anything that may require building evacuation, do not take the elevator. Take the stairs!
- Do not attempt to rush into an elevator while the doors are closing. Simply wait for the next car. Also, keep young children and leashed pets very close to you, for their safety as well as the safety of everyone in the car.
- Try not to panic about oxygen. While the car is an admittedly confined space, you should have plenty of available air to breath. Elevator cars are not airtight.
- Never, ever try to exit a stalled elevator car through the roof hatch or by prying the doors apart. This is the most important tip, as several deaths have tragically occurred when people try to escape stalled cars. In many cases, the elevator will stop between floors, leaving occupants with the mistaken impression that they would be able to crawl out to safety. However, if the elevator moves as someone is trying to escape, they could be trapped and tragically, crushed. So stay put and be patient.
- If the elevator car stalls, use the elevator phone and/or your cell phone to alert authorities. Remain calm.
Additional Elevator Safety Tips, courtesy of Allied Universal
While elevators have proven to be a very safe way of transporting both people and merchandise, occasionally malfunctions do occur. Common problems can include elevators that do not correctly align with the floor, doors that do not open or close properly, stopping between floors or stopping altogether and entrapping occupants.
Universal Services of America offers the following tips to help ensure your safety and knowledge regarding proper elevator use.
When you approach the elevator
- Stand aside for exiting passengers.
- Wait for the next car if the elevator is already full.
- Do not attempt to stop a closing door.
- Use the stairs, not an elevator, if there is a fire in the building.
When you enter and exit the elevator
- Watch your step, as the elevator floor may not be level with the landing.
- Stand clear of the doors, and keep your clothing and any carry-on items away from the opening.
When riding on the elevator
- Stand back from the doors and hold the handrail, if available.
- Pay attention to the floor indications, so you may exit when you arrive at your floor.
- Discern between the “open door” button and the “close door” button to avoid confusing them, if needed.
If you find yourself in an elevator that has become stuck
- Push the “door open” button. If that does not work, ring the elevator alarm.
- Use the emergency phone, alarm or help button, if available, to summon emergency personnel. Or use your cell phone to call 9-1-1.
- Do not attempt to force the doors open.
- Never try to leave the elevator car on your own, as doing so could result in serious injury.
- Remain calm. Elevators contain sufficient oxygen levels to last until help arrives.
For more info on elevator safety or to learn about escalator safety, visit the National Elevator Industry website at www.neii.org. Remember that safety is a daily priority, whether or not you use elevators. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.