Elevators Are Becoming Your Biggest Ally In a Multi-Story Catastrophe

Most of us not only use elevators every day, but we can’t live without them. The option to ride the steel beast to our jobs or apartments can mean the difference between having the time to stop for breakfast and being forced to eat stale office doughnuts. We depend on them and when they malfunction it feels like the end of the world.

Our history has tragically shown that having an effective escape plan in place is crucial when an elevator is a part of your daily doings. So why are we told in an emergency to avoid elevators when in fact your chances are actually better inside the elevator than out of it?

Documented cases of people opting for the elevator over the stairs have ended favorably. This was especially so in the case of fire. The elevator is the faster way down and for some the only way down. For some handicapped people it is essential to their way of life. In an emergency an elevator is their only course of action. Our world needs to evolve to accommodate our growing need. Our dependency on elevators will only escalate.

It isn’t an uncommon notion to believe that elevators should be utilized more as an escape route from tragedy. With knowledge comes change. Now that engineers are aware of the benefits of using elevators instead of steering clear; changes are underway. That little sign placed beside every elevator you’ve ever used will cease to exist. You won’t be told to use the stairs in case of emergency for too much longer.


With events like 9/11 in our memory, practices have begun to build more disaster friendly elevators. Most notably are the service cars in the new World Trade Center. These elevators will be used to bring people down to safety in the case of an emergency. This would also minimize the trampling that can lead to fatalities when massive amounts of people are all raging down several flights of stairs.

It’s not a quandary why elevators have not advanced in emergency methods beyond a bright little button that may or may not work when you need it to. Every elevator manufacturer should have an escape route designed for their particular model. It’s not enough to just ride people up and down a building all of the time anymore. Newer elevators should minimize the possibility of mechanical malfunctions, electrical fires and cable corrosion that can lead to fatal outcomes. They should also minimize the potential harm from man-made chaos.

Whatever the cause may be, an escape route should be factored into every design. The problem is cost. Putting in a brand new state of the art disaster free elevator will be costly. Replacing existing elevators are even more expensive and unlikely. Being that elevator companies have neglected to address this safety issue properly, it’s best to have your own plan in place. It will take time, but eventually disaster built elevators will be the majority and each elevator will be the first response to evacuating a disaster stricken building.

From Moveable Room To Gossip Shop: How Elevators Changed America

The skylines of every city in the world would look very different today were it not for the simple expedient of vertical transport. Elevators inaugurated the era of skyscrapers and rescued the world from the blight of urban sprawl. Without elevators, the modern metropolis would not exist, and yet they have been largely overlooked in the cultural history of America.

Nowhere To Go But Up

American inventor Elisha Graves Otis patented the first passenger-safe elevator in 1853. Steam-powered and manually operated, by 1873 more than 2,000 Otis elevators were in use across America, mostly in office buildings, luxury hotels and department stores. These early elevators were designed as “moveable rooms,” with chandeliers, carpeting, benches and uniformed operators. As elevators became more ubiquitous and the novelty of vertical transport wore off, they gradually shed their Gilded Age charm.

Like elevators got their start in New York. The Panic of 1873 and a real estate crunch in lower Manhattan caused city planners to consider packing up Wall Street and moving it uptown to escape the sprawl. Instead of moving out, however, Wall Street moved up. Henry Hyde, the founder of one of the country’s largest insurance firms, installed two elevators in his headquarters, and built what was—at seven stories and 130 feet—the tallest structure in New York at the time. Hyde’s record didn’t last long. The electric elevator was invented in 1880 by Ernst Werner Siemens, the founder of the eponymous German industrial conglomerate.

Siemen’s electric elevators combined with steel building frames to surpass vertical limits and inaugurate the age of the “skyscraper.” As technology improved, the record for the world’s tallest building would be shattered again and again.

The Sky’s The Limit

Elevators not only changed the urban landscape: they also left an indelible mark on American language and culture. The idea of “claustrophobia,” the fear of enclosed spaces and having no escape, was born inside the elevator. Early hydraulic elevators caused doctors to worry about “elevator sickness,” the nausea and disorientation caused by the jolt of sudden stops.

The rich have always sought higher ground, but elevators cemented the association between altitude and opulence. “The sky’s the limit” entered the American lexicon in 1920, and “living the high life” shortly thereafter. The wealthy went from the ground floor to the “penthouse,” a word that took on its contemporary meaning in 1921. The phrase “up-and-coming” first came into usage in 1926, synonymous with success and “upward” social mobility.

The elevator has been a fountain of idioms, a trope of fiction and an iconic setting for unexpected or awkward encounters between strangers. Douglas Adams gave elevators personalities in his “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy” novels, imbuing them with as many foibles and idiosyncrasies as their occupants. As a cultural icon, however, the elevator has been the victim of its own success.

There is no way to remove the rush of acceleration during takeoff, the whir of scenery on a train ride, or all the inherent dangers of an automobile, but innovations have made riding an elevator an almost imperceptible experience. The safety and efficiency of modern elevators has made it easy not to notice them, and yet America as we know it would not exist without them.

Are you Breaking Any Elevator Etiquette Rules?

Every day, thousands of people ride elevators. It can be an uncomfortable few minutes if you are stuck with someone who is rude or who is scared of elevators. Make sure you are not the problem by following these rules of elevator etiquette.

  1. While you are waiting. As you wait for the elevator, make sure you stand to your right as you face the elevator. This allows plenty of room for the people on the elevator to exit before you try to get on and prevents anyone from bumping into each other.
  1. Stepping off and then back on. If an elevator arrives and is not crowded, enter and go to the back corners. All of the corners should be filled first so new riders have an easier time getting on. If the elevator is crowded, the people closest to the door should step off at each floor and hold the door for others to exit. If you are one to step off and are going to a much higher floor, try to work your way to the back of the elevator so you are not in everyone else’s way as they try to get off the elevator.
  1. Who pushes the buttons. If you happen to be the person closest to the panel of buttons, you have a job to do. Each time someone gets on, smile and ask them what floor they need. This keeps everyone from reaching around each other to push buttons. If there are two button panels, whoever is more outgoing can have the official button pusher job.
  1. Carrying large bags. Everyone has times when they are carrying huge bags or packages when they are on an elevator. The best thing to do is place the bags on the floor near your feet because legs are narrower than the rest of your body. When it is time for you to get off, carry the bags as low as possible.
  1. Be polite. Your parents taught you to say please and thank you. Being polite in an elevator can go a long way in making your ride more enjoyable. If someone holds the door or pushes the button, say thank you. When you get on, tell the person who is pushing the floor button your floor number and say please. Some people will not respond to your politeness and that’s ok. You know you did what was right.
  1. Talking. Most people go into a zone when they get on an elevator. You can smile and say “good morning” as you enter, but don’t be offended if no one answers back. If you are with someone when you get on the elevator, talk quietly to each other or wait until you are off the elevator before you continue the conversation. Most cell phones will not keep a signal on an elevator, but if yours happens to keep working, wait until you are alone to continue your conversation.
  1. Wait for another car. If the elevator arrives and is full, wait for the next one. It is so rude to crowd onto the car. If you are truly in a hurry, take the stairs instead of waiting for the next one.

Elevator etiquette does not have to be hard. Be polite and friendly to the other riders and you won’t have to worry about being the one no one wants to ride with.