Are your elevators ready for an emergency?

As a property owner or manager, you probably have a lot on your plate. You have to deal with things like the uncertainty of a rapidly evolving real estate landscape and the delicate maze of tenant relations, all while manoeuvring through the challenges of a major pandemic. And as if this wasn’t challenging enough, you also need to think about the safety compliance of your elevator equipment.

To comply with emergency requirements for elevators you need to know the specifications of international, federal, state and local code, the mandates of the ADA (American Disabilities Act), and adhere strictly to these guidelines. In this article we take a closer look at what you need to do to stay on the right side of elevator emergency compliance.

Standby power systems

International Building Code requires buildings of four or more stories to have elevators included in a standby power system. This will allow the elevator to operate, if necessary, during a general power outage.

Emergency Phones

An elevator cab must be equipped with a hands-free emergency phone. In addition, the ADA requires that disabled passengers can operate this phone and easily call for help. Many elevators feature a built-in phone system that requires only the simple push of a button to initiate the call. This establishes human contact and offers assurance to entrapped passengers that help is on the way, while assisting the service provider and fire officials in determining the precise location of the entrapment.

Emergency Lighting

National code requires that a cab be equipped with an emergency lighting system that activates in the event of a power failure and stalling of the elevator. This gives entrapped passengers visibility and comfort, helping them to stay safe. There should be code-specified batteries to keep the cab lit even when overall power fails.

More specifically, the code requires in part that “not less than two auxiliary lamps shall be provided; that the illumination at the car threshold, with the door closed, shall be not less than 50 lx (5 fc) for passenger cars and half this for freight cars; that auxiliary lights shall be automatically turned on in all elevators in service after normal car light fails; and that the power system shall be capable of maintaining the above light intensity for a period of at least 4 hours.”

Firefighter’s Service Operation

Firefighter Services Operation is required both by A.17.1 2000 Code and Appendix K of the NYC Department of Buildings code. Without a system such as this, during a fire the elevators could possibly continue their normal operation, with potentially fatal consequences.

While there is relatively common knowledge regarding the dangerous “chimney effect” of elevator shafts, and buildings commonly display signage on each floor strictly warning against using elevators during a fire, building occupants nonetheless often head to them in a reflexive attempt to escape. There are many instances of such behavior leading to severe injury and death.

In the event of fire, Firefighter’s Service Operation removes all cabs from “normal” mode and disables all hall and car calls. It allows operation of the system by firefighters and emergency personnel who gain control via the use of special keys, and positions the cars on a designated fire-recall landing in the building. From this location, passengers have a potentially much safer route to exiting the elevator and the building.

Why emergency compliance is important

These codes and regulations apply to new elevator installations as well as the modification of older existing elevators. Failure to comply with the requirements can lead to shutdowns, violations, significant cost in money and time, and possible legal liabilities. However, the worst potential outcome is of course tragedy – which is more important than any fine or lawsuit.

Let’s talk

If you’re not sure about whether your elevator systems are in compliance or if you’d like to discuss any improvements, give us a call on (347)-592-1555 to get your systems assessed as soon as possible.

Main office

Unitec Elevator Company
36-36 33rd Street,
Long Island City, NY 11106

Field office

Unitec Elevator Company
74 Maiden Lane, Suite 703
New York, NY 10038