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.

Did you know about this OSHA regulation?

OSHA requires that your plan-of-action include a way to alert employees – including disabled workers, to evacuate or take action, and how to report emergencies.

Let’s break this down:

1. How do you alert employees including workers who may be hearing impaired? Try a dual Audible and Visual Signal Light that blasts a warning but also blinks brightly enough to catch everyone’s attention.

2. Evacuating and taking action is the easy part! Line your evacuation route with Exit Signs and Glow in the Dark Tape. Do not block fire extinguishers so they are easily visible. Establish a meeting place outside the building and make sure all employees know where it is and to whom to report once they get there.

3. Create an easy and fast way for employees to report emergencies. This procedure works well: in each department, identify an emergency point person and a backup.  The emergency point person is in charge of his/her department roster and ensures all employees from the department have left the building and arrived at the evacuation point. This person should also be the first point of contact for reporting emergencies.  Your emergency point person will contact the other departments to report the emergency and from that point, your company will begin to follow your emergency evacuation plan.

Follow the simple steps above to instantly comply with OSHA regulations.  Avoid fines or worse- injuries and lost time.

-ms.