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.