Russ Ward

People Stuck in the Elevator – What Do I Do

People Stuck in the Elevator – It was storming pretty bad outside the hotel my wife and I were at. All day long red flag warnings were out on the beach, so we decided to stay at the hotel for supper. We were strolling towards the elevator as winds howled outside and I said, “You know, I’ve never been stuck in an elevator.” with a laugh. I pushed the button and she said, “Well you just jinxed us.”

Both of us chuckled a bit and then we heard the inviting and all too familiar “ding” as the doors opened and we stepped onboard. The doors swiftly closed behind us but then the lights flickered and we heard an unexpected clunk.

I did jinx us!

Obviously the power had been interrupted and as a result the elevators in the entire hotel came to a screeching halt. Not only that, but I am sure all sorts of services were interrupted throughout the property. As we stood there we both knew better than to panic, so we waited.

That episode got me to thinking, if I were in charge of the building what should be done? I write a lot about elevators, but I rarely write on what the building owner or property manager should do when the elevator thuds to a halt. Not that this happens often.

Elevators get stuck rarely in the United States and injuries are even rarer. Especially considering that elevators move nearly the entire world’s population or 10 billion passengers a week. There is the occasional power outage or mechanical problem, but statistically only 1 elevator ride in 12 million or so results is some kind of issue and when it does happen it is extremely minor in nature.

But, my mind could not help thinking about when you are in charge and people are getting stuck in the elevator. What should be done? So, I came up with a list of steps if it ever happens to you. Feel free to borrow or print any of this list and keep it for a reference or reminder. Just remember the most important thing is to make sure the passengers stay safe and you do what you can to get the elevator moving as quickly as possible.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Contact or respond immediately. No one wants to deal with this, but the longer you wait more panic and frustration sets in. This video (language warning) shows how upset people can get.
  2. Find out if there are emergencies. If there are, contact 911.
  3. Determine the number in the cab. Emergency crews need that info.
  4. Be polite. They are your guests and unless they are vandals or nincompoops, they did nothing to get stuck. Be pleasant, apologetic and engaged.
  5. Find out the floor and what elevator.
  6. Tell the passengers what you are doing. Give them a timeline and don’t play it down. It’s tempting to say a couple of minutes, but if you know it will be longer tell them. Honesty is best.
  7. Give them important safety tips about elevators (see below) and don’t assume they know what to do. Movies are filled with dumb ideas about elevators.
  8. Call your elevator service provider, give them the details and ask how long before they can arrive on the scene. They will not know how long it will take to get the people out until they are onsite and assess.
  9. Contact the people in the car with updates as needed. If it is going to be a while ask them if there is anyone they need contacted (dinner reservations to meetings). Go the extra mile, they may not have a signal or their phones.
  10. Do not try to open the doors yourself or make repairs. Leave that for the professionals. Only act if told to do so by a licensed technician.
  11. Coordinate with the technician or fire and rescue. Know what floor the passengers will be exiting the elevator and be waiting with water and/or food. You should also find ways to make things better for people getting stuck if you can.

Make sure those trapped understand the following:

  1. Tell them to try buttons. Start with the open doors button, and then try pressing the floor you are on button. Finally, the other buttons. Generally, this won’t help, but it is a possibility.
  2. Tell them not to try to get out of the elevator until told to do so. This is especially true if they are stuck between floors.
  3. Reassure them they are safe, and there is plenty of oxygen as elevators are not air tight.
  4. Elevators are design to not fall! Let them know this.
  5. Tell them not to try to open the hatch on top of the car as it is not for them. It is for emergency rescue and opens from the top of the cab.
  6. Tell them to not force the doors of the elevator open in any circumstance. Forcing the doors open can actually break the equipment, cause a further delay in the rescue, and result in injuries.
  7. Let the passengers know it is okay to get comfortable and sit down.
  8. It can get warm or cold. Generally elevators get their heat and air from the building and without stopping at floors and doors opening, temps could heat up depending on how many are stuck in the cab.

Finally and Most Importantly

One last thing, everyone on staff should know if you are the auto-dialed, priority call for the elevator car. Sometimes the emergency phones are programmed to contact the non-emergency police or fire department in the local jurisdiction. They can also be programmed to contact your elevator service company directly. No matter who is called automatically, it still does not relieve you of your obligations to the passengers. So find out what floor and open a dialog. It shows you care. Most importantly don’t let people just stand there wondering. If you do they will be thinking more of escape than waiting which is always a danger.

Happy Endings

Fortunately for my wife and I the emergency was relatively brief unlike Nicolas White. He spent 41 hours trapped in an elevator. When the power came back on in our case, the elevator system was reset and we zoomed down to the lobby without a further care in the world. We enjoyed a great gourmet meal and had several fun conversations about getting stuck…

But we did take the stairs back to our room.

Sometimes our blog posts are not all about selling elevators, but issues like people getting stuck in the elevator. They are often about general information you might find useful. So, feel free to comment below, ask any elevator questions you would like or follow future blog posts by signing up. However, if you do have a need for an elevator and want to know a general budget number, just click below for a Fast Track number. Also click to take a virtual tour of our facility. You can see for yourself what it takes to produce the best commercial quality elevator that is set in place fully installed in less than four hours. In any case we love hearing from you!

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