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My Elevator Exploded! Just How Safe Are They , Anyway?

Updated on February 10, 2015


in the elevator
in the elevator | Source

What Happened

You are wondering what I mean by "exploded". This is what happened......I was in an elevator that I use every day. While traveling down from the third floor there were two very loud booms that seemed to come from just outside the back of the elevator. That was followed by what sounded like breaking glass. The booms were petrifyingly loud and the elevator shook.Then it stopped between the third and second floors.

I looked at the blinking arrow pointing towards floor two and immeiately felt claustrophobic. I told myself to keep my wits about me , and I pushed the emergency button. Someone answered and wanted to know where I was. "I'm between the 3rd and 2nd floor!" I yelled. Just then the elevator resumed its descent . But two more ear shattering booms and the same tinkling glass surrounded me again. While the elevator shook I thought I was going to be squashed inside an imploding elevator .Now I was stuck between the 2nd and 1st floor. "Get me out of here!" I screamed.

Rescuers managed to get the elevator to the first floor and I escaped unharmed. Everyone was crowded around because they had heard the tremendous explosions, too. I was too shaken to do much of anything after that. I thought of going back up to my room, but did not want to try the other elevator. It took several hours for me to try that.

HELP! | Source

The Explanation

Later , after the repairmen left, I asked what had gone wrong. I was told that a small metal plate, about 6"x8", broke off and the tinkling sound was it hitting the cement floor below. "But it happened twice!" I said. The guy just shrugged.

A handy man?
A handy man?

Does That Make Sense?

The experience left me shaken and I really wanted to know what happened. The maintenance man's explanation didn't make sense to me. The noise was too loud to have been caused by a little metal plate. Also, like I said, it happened twice. What are the odds of two metal plates falling off? I resented the trivializing of my experience, too.

Tried To Get More Information

I went to the manager of the building complex and told her my doubts about the explanation. Her response was, "It is fixed now, and you are ok. That is the main thing." I will most likely never know if they were covering up something. Why would they do that? Only if they were afraid of a law-suit, I suspect. But, were they? I will never know.

So, Are Elevators Safe?

In researching on the internet I found many articles stating how safe elevators are. I suppose that should be comforting, but what if you are the one exception? I read many descriptions of those whose were injured or killed in elevators. This must be deemed acceptable in the eyes of the writers of these articles. They compared the statistics of elevator accidents to other things like riding in a taxi. I guess you could say elevators are relatively safe. And, as they say, accidents do happen.

A 2009 report by Occupational Health & Safety attributes the rarity of elevator fatalities to "intricate, redundant, and regulated safety features built into every elevator." Elevators typically have four to eight times as many cables holding them up than they actually need, and they also have automatic braking systems near the top and bottom of the shaft, backed up by electromagnetic brakes. Finally, "at the bottom of the shaft is a heavy-duty shock absorber system designed to save passengers if all else fails," the report stated.

Elevator accidents kill only about 27 people a year in the U.S., reports, although these accidents injure about 10,200 people annually. My own grandmother was one of them: she was once clamped by the decrepit elevator in her Bronx apartment building—the door closed on her hand, crushing a few bones—but she survived. In fact, the Los Angeles Times crunched some numbers and found that elevators make about 18 billion trips a year, which means the fatality rate is about 0.00000015 percent.

-Quote-Suzanne Hart, Elevator Safety


In my research I could find only a little validation for my fears that this was more than a minor accident. There was an article from Dubai that stated,

“It is very dangerous when the elevator makes loud noises because it indicates that there is a motor or electrical malfunction. Tenants should not take the matter lightly, and should immediately notify us,” (said Abdul Rahman.)

Also, one article mention mis leveling. My elevator was doing that all the time.Mis-leveling is a sign that the brakes are worn. This is when the elevator always stops a little above or below the floor, rather than precisely at the floor.

I guess these failures happen so infrequently that they are not considered in the over all safetly of elevators. But, if you are in an elevator that makes noises or mis levels, report it!


Here Are a Few Safety Tips

Elevator Safety Tips
Most people know how to ride an elevator. Here are a few outstanding tips that you may not have thought of. Most of these tio[s were gleaned from Otis .
When waiting for elevators:

This first one is mine:Never enter an elevator if you have to go to the bathroom. Go first, just in case you have to spend more time than you thought in the elevator.

  • Be aware of health conditions that could contribute to falls or accidents. If you are with a person at risk, by all means, assist them into the elevator.

When boarding elevators:

  • Watch your step - the elevator car may not be perfectly level with the floor. this can cause you to trip. It is particularly difficult for a person in a wheelchair. I say, report it.
  • Stand clear of the doors - keep clothes and carry-ons away from the opening. People have died getting themselves stuck in doors.
  • Push and hold the DOOR OPEN button if doors need to be held open, or ask someone to push the button for you. Never try to stop a closing door with your hand or arm. Wait for the next car.

When riding elevators:

  • Hold the handrail, if available
  • Stand next to the elevator wall, if available
  • If the doors do not open when the elevator stops, push the DOOR OPEN button

When exiting elevators:

  • Again-Watch your step - the elevator car may not be perfectly level with the floor

In the event of an elevator emergency:

  • If the elevator should ever stop between floors, do not panic, there is plenty of air in the elevator. (While this may be a comforting thought, it makes me think of spending hours trapped inside.)
  • Never climb out of a stalled elevator
  • Use the ALARM or HELP button, the telephone or the intercom to call for assistance
  • Above all, wait for qualified help to arrive and never try to leave an elevator that has not stopped normally
  • Emergency lighting will come on in the event of a power failure

If you are Stalled in an Elevator

  1. Push the "Door Open" Button
  • If you are near the landing the door will open. You can slowly and carefully step out of the elevator. Be sure to watch your step as the elevator floor may, or may not, be level with the landing.
  1. Remain Calm
  • If the door does not open, you are still safe. Do not try to exit the elevator. Wait for trained emergency personnel to arrive. Even if the air temperature feels warm, there is plenty of air circulating in the elevator and its hoistway.
  1. Press the Alarm or Help Button, and Use Any Available Communication Systems
  1. Relax, and DO NOT Try to Extract Yourself from the Elevator

In Conclusion...

I guess, like everything else, we take our chances when we venture out, or even stay in. Life is full of tricky things that can go awry. In the large scheme of things, elevators are less dangerous than many other vehicles.


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