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Where There’s Smoke and Fire, There Should Be A Plan

A building fire is every Property Manager’s nightmare (among some others, but we’ll stop here). Being prepared to manage your building – the staff, occupants, and systems — during an emergency, is the best way to mitigate fire damage, keep everyone safe, and expedite the return to normal operation.

A frequent question I get is “what happens to elevators during an emergency,” when there’s smoke, a real fire in the building, or a false alarm?  “Where do they go?”

It’s an important question that brings together emergency planning and staff training, an understanding of the technical programming of an elevator for emergency response, and an understanding of how elevators are to behave in your building, based on your building’s unique footprint.

In a nutshell, here’s what you should know about elevators during fire emergencies:

  • Elevators should never be used during a fire, except by firefighters or other trained professionals.
  • During an emergency, people should follow the building’s evacuation plan and exit the building immediately using the stairs.
  • When a smoke/fire alarm goes off, the elevator goes into “Fire Service Mode” (Phase 1),  and is called to the main egress landing (often the lobby, but not always). 
  • If, however, the alarm is triggered on the main egress landing, the elevator (all elevators) will be called to the alternate fire recall landing, the floor closest to the egress landing.
  • Upon arrival at the designated exit floor, the elevator doors open, and any passengers should exit immediately and follow the building’s evacuation procedures.

Once it is safe, firefighters will use the fire service Phase 2 key switch in the elevator operating panel. This will allow them to control the elevator between floors and open or close the doors as needed.

We encourage all building managers to be well trained on their building’s evacuation plan and to know what to expect from their elevators, and their elevator service provider, during an emergency.

Here are a few other well-grounded best practices and “must haves” for fire safety planning:

  • Make sure there is easy access to the number for the local fire department.
  • Have a clear evacuation plan. Ensure that all of the exits and stairwells are clearly marked.
  • Have maps of the exits posted throughout the building.
  • Your safety plan should be visible in all elevators, so in the event of a fire, riders will know what to do.
  • Staff training is key. Visitors to your building may not be familiar with the layout and are likely to panic in an emergency. Make sure your building staff is well trained on your safety plan and how elevators will operate, so they can act quickly.
  • Consider designating a fire captain. Depending on the size of your building, you may want to designate more than one. Maintaining order in the face of panic is important, and a fire captain can help do just that. They will oversee the evacuation and make sure the safety plan is being followed.
  • Not everyone is able to take the stairs, so make sure your safety plan takes individuals with disabilities into consideration.

Need More Help?

Having a working knowledge of how the elevators in your building should operate during an emergency is essential to effective safety planning, training, and smooth operations during the unexpected emergency. If you aren’t sure of what to expect from your elevators, ask your service provider to review and test the programming and protocols with you and your staff.  For more information or assistance in preparing your elevator safety plan, contact us at Allied Elevator.