8 Tips and Tricks for Elevator Safety
Tony DeFrancesco, CEI; Kent Reed, CEI; Andrea Ruff, CEI
You’re trapped in a metal box. Fear, panic, and anxiety set in, and every passing moment feels like a lifetime.
It doesn’t take much to set the scene for how your next trip in an elevator in an office building, shopping center, or apartment building could go wrong, but with over 900,000 elevators in the U.S. and millions of daily passengers, they are one of the safest modes of transportation.
Still, elevator anxiety is a common experience for people using vertical transportation. Elevators are potential sources of injuries and even death to the public and workers installing, repairing, and maintaining them.
Common injury causes are tripping, entangled clothing, being hit by closing elevator doors, or falling. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports an average of 27 elevator deaths and 10,200 injuries annually, most of these incidents occur to elevator technicians rather than during regular passenger use.
Whether you have a fear of being trapped, anxiety about what to do in an emergency, or are unsure how reliable and safe elevators are, there are actions you can take to reduce risks and minimize your fears.
Further, government agencies and the elevator industry are committed to safety. There are specific requirements for state and local inspections. Building owners must perform and document elevator maintenance.
We’ll share a few safety tips and debunk vertical transportation myths to ease your mind.
1. Be cautious when boarding and exiting.
When using elevators, watch your step. Trips and falls cause the most injuries on elevators. When entering or exiting an elevator, observe the threshold before placing your foot. The elevator cab floor may not be level with the lobby floor.
2. Never use your hand or an object to keep an elevator door open.
Rather than putting anything in front of the sensors, use the door open button.
If you find yourself inside an elevator and the doors are not opening, remember that all car operating panels are equipped with an alarm bell and emergency phone. Never try to pry open the doors. Don’t try to exit another way; wait for help to arrive. The safest place in an elevator emergency is in the elevator.
3. Don’t overcrowd elevators.
If an elevator looks crowded, wait for the next one. Once that elevator has left, place a call for the next one. The doors will open when the elevator car arrives. The last place you want to be is stuck in a jam-packed elevator.
4. Contact emergency responders if you are stuck.
If you find yourself stuck in the elevator, you can use the emergency telephone inside the car. The phone line is a direct connection to someone who can offer assistance and contact emergency responders when needed. In elevators with newer technology, you can even type a message that will appear on a digital screen.
5. Take action in case of fire.
You’ve probably already heard that you should always opt for stairs instead of an elevator during a fire.
But what should you do if you are in an elevator when a fire starts? If you’re riding in an elevator and you see a flashing fire hat light and hear a buzzer, that means there is a fire emergency. Heat detectors will send a signal to the fire control panel. An elevator will return to the designated egress level when activated by a fire detection device and/or key switch.
Doors will open at the egress floor, and you need to exit. If the fire is on the egress level, the elevator will move to an alternate floor where you can exit safely.
6. Take the elevator when you have carry-ons.
If you have a stroller, cart, or pet with you, it’s much safer for you to take an elevator than an escalator.
7. Don’t panic.
If you find yourself stuck in an elevator, remain cool and collected. It’s easier for responders to help you if you’re calm. Try the door open button just in case you have reached a floor and the doors simply didn’t open.
8. Shed your fears.
Elevator doors will not open without a car being there. Elevator hoistway doors are the outside doors that you look at from the lobby side. They do not have motors on them.
For the hoistway doors to open, they have to be triggered by the arrival of the elevator car. These work together to open. Similarly, elevator doors will not open between floors. Elevator cab doors cannot open without being triggered by arriving fully at the correct floor.
Learn more about elevator safety.
Now that we’ve shared some safety information, let’s revisit a few key points:
- Never try to exit a stalled elevator without help from an emergency responder.
- Be cautious when entering and exiting an elevator.
- Refrain from overcrowding elevators.
Following the tips above and staying calm will prepare you to handle any elevator emergency.
Learn more about elevator safety with our on-demand INSIGHTS webinar, The Do’s and Don’ts of Elevator and Escalator Safety.
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