Almost every metro cities has elevators in evry homes and offices, and they all have a potential for malfunctioning at one time or another. In small communities, elevator rescues may be a rare event, but in metropolitan areas, elevator rescues can be a common occurrence. Regardless of the frequency of elevator rescue calls, all firefighters must be familiar not just with the mechanical workings of elevators but also how to operate at elevator rescues safely. When an elevator car stalls, it will be the fire department that receives the call to remove its occupants.
There are two basic types of elevators that you will encounter: electric traction and hydraulic. The electric traction uses steel cables, counter weights, and pulleys to raise and lower the elevator car. The hydraulic uses hydraulic fluid and pistons to raise and lower elevator cars. The hydraulic type is usually limited to buildings of six stories or less.
The first step is to become familiar with the features of elevator construction and their operational features. Following are some common terms used when operating at elevator rescues.
Alarm switch : Also known as the “Emergency Call” button, this is an electrical switch inside an elevator car on the control panel that will activate an alarm bell. Some elevators will have just a push button, while others have a pull-out activation switch.
Blind elevator : Also called “express elevators,” this elevator type does not stop at every floor in a building; it may only stop every 10 floors or more.
Car door : This is the door that is attached to the elevator car. These doors are visible from inside the elevator car and either slide open in one direction or split in half and slide open to both ends of the car.
Drop keys : This is a long cylindrical key that is hinged toward one end of the key with a flat drop piece of metal. It has a “T”-style handle on the opposite end of the key and is used to open the hoistway doors. The drop key is inserted into a small hole in the upper area of the hoistway door and is slid into the hole. It is rotated until you feel it hit the rod or closure assembly. It is then rotated to release the hoistway door from the closed position. There are numerous styles of elevator rescue keys dependent on those found in your area. Your department should equip you with the proper tools.
Elevator car control panel : The panel located inside the elevator car. This panel contains the emergency stop bottom, the alarm switch, the “Open Door” and “Close Door” buttons, the floor selection buttons, the firefighters service switch or key, the maintenance service switch, and the floor display. Communication equipment is often located on this panel..
Elevator control panel : This control panel located in the lobby or first floor indicates the location of the elevator car; the floor selection buttons; the firefighters’ service switch; the maintenance service switch; and, possibly, a telephone.
Elevator keys : These keys are used to control the elevator’s movements. Firefighters’ service keys are the most common and which can be different from one jurisdiction to another. Many times, these keys are controlled by local ordinances.
Elevator machine room : This room is usually located above the hoistway where the motors that raise and lower the elevator cars are located. Be aware that these motors may also be below or adjacent to the bottom of the hoistway shaft. The electrical power control switches are also located here. For hydraulic elevators, the machine room is located in an area below the hoistway or in a room adjacent to the elevator on the first floor.
Emergency stop button : This is electric button, when activated, will stop the elevator car in the hoistway. An alarm bell may ring when it is activated.
Express elevator : This elevator that travels directly from the ground floor to a sky lobby or bypass numerous floors in high-rise building.
Firefighter service : This is a key switch located on the elevator and elevator car control panels that allow firefighters to take control of the movement of the elevator car.
Hoistway : This is the shaft inside a building where the elevator car moves up and down.
Hoistway doors : These doors are attached to the hoistway shaft. They are visible from the elevator lobby, which may either be a sliding design or hinge-type door that usually opens outward from the car.
Hydraulic elevators : This is an elevator that uses hydraulic fluid, a hydraulic pump, and a lifting piston to raise and lower an elevator car. Hydraulic elevators are limited to buildings six stories high or less.
Main electrical power switch : This is the main control switch that controls the power to the elevator motor, which controls the elevator car’s movement in the hoistway. All power switches should have “on/off” designations and are clearly marked. The switches should also indicate which elevator it controls. This switch does not control the lighting and ventilation in the elevator car.
Sky lobby elevator : This elevator is used in high-rise buildings where elevators start at the ground level and end their service at a higher floor level (but not at the top floor). At that higher floor, passengers must exit one elevator and move to another elevator that services only the higher floors of the building. The elevator lobby where this move is made is known as the “sky lobby.”
Where you work or your department’s response plan to elevator emergencies may differ from the following plan, which is a response pattern that my department follows for an elevator rescue.