Research says elevators may be a safer option to stairs in a high-rise evacation

According to “Experts Reconsider Elevator as Fire Escape”, an article by Anthony M. DeStefano, elevators in skyscrapers may be used in future mass evacuations based on research by a special National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) panel that studied the evacuation of the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001.

“Don’t use elevators in fires is one of the most successful public education [safety] campaigns in history,” added Jason D. Averill, an expert on fire safety for NIST.  This idea brought about some of Emedco’s most successful signs in glow-in-the-dark and standard sign material – ‘In case of fire, do not use elevators, use stairways’ signsBut due to the events of Sept. 11 and taller buildings sprouting up all over the globe, elevators are being looked at as  safe evacuation option in mass evacuations, especially fires. Major national safety organizations, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), are preparing or proposing standards for the use of elevators in high-rise evacuations.

The elevator push comes after years of analysis of the Twin Towers showed how inadequate stairs were, said Edwin Galea, a professor at the University of Greenwich in England.  NFPA’s life safety code published in 2009 states elevators should be in “noncombustible hoistway” with fire resistant shafts separate from the building.

Currently there is no federal building code that includes elevators in an evacuation process so states and cities are coming up with their own requirements. For example, New York City requires all new high-rise construction to include impact-resistant fire stairs and stairwells must be spaced away from each other.  Also, protected/hardened elevator shafts and vestibules should be available where people can safely wait until it is their turn to evacuate.

It’s important to remember that the use of elevators is still being considered. Take the stairs in case of an emergency in most buildings.

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