Fundacion - Ecoem

Just How Safe Is The Modern Elevator

Elevators or lifts as they are called in some countries, have been around for the better part of two hundred years. They are the easiest and safest way to get from floor to floor but there is still a good number of people who prefer escalators and staircases which would actually be considered an oxymoron since you are more susceptible to an incident taking the stairs or escalator.

Statistically, elevators are the safest way to travel. You are safer riding an elevator than being in a car and even though there have been a number of reported incidences, elevators still remain to be as safe as ever. There have been a few incidences in the past of elevator malfunction but to date, there is yet to be a death reported. One such case is the 41 hour ordeal endured by Nicholas White.

In 1999, Nicholas got stuck in the elevator shaft of his office building for 41 long hours. Yes, 41 hours. That is almost two full days. Naturally, anyone who has heard about him would be more than a little phobic when it comes to elevators. Poor Mr. White had only taken a cigarette break and when he took the elevator back to his office, there was a sudden jolt, the lights went off and came back on again before he knew what was going on and just like that, he was stuck. Naturally, he began contemplating death and walking into the proverbial ‘light’. However, the important fact here is that Nicholas got out alive. He was probably a little exhausted and emotionally spent but he was alive.

Free falling is what most people think about when it comes to fear of riding the elevator but this would only happen in the event of a fire or structural collapse. Matter of fact if you talk to any elevator technician, they will tell you that they can actually think of two instances where an elevator car actually fell and this was in 1945 when a bomber pilot crashed into The Empire State Building and during the World Trade Center attacks of September 11 2001. When the pilot flew his plane into the Empire State Building a cable snapped sending two cars crashing down. However, no one died in that incident. One car was empty while the other one had a woman in it. The broken cable coiled underneath the car setting up a good cushion but the landing was still not soft.

One might argue that the 9/11 attack might qualify as an example of a negative elevator incident but like the Empire State Building, this incident was not as a result of poor structural integrity. Besides, the estimated 200 people who perished in elevators during 9/11 mostly succumbed to free-fall plunges, smoke inhalation and eventual structural collapse which were all caused by the planes flying into the structures rather than a question of structural integrity.

Elevator factories and engineers are keen to insist that short of airplanes rammings, most accidents are caused by human error; generally people doing things they shouldn’t be.

Elevators are built to be safe rooms and in the event of an incident like what happened to Mr White, the safest place to be is actually inside the elevator according to lift consultants. Nicholas White drew the short stick alright, but he got out alive, safe and sound.