Stuck Elevators: Guidelines for Prevention and Management

When in an emergency, light a stuck elevator, push the in emergency button, as covered by ASME A17.1.

If you find yourself trapped inside an elevator (lift), it is essential not to worsen the situation. Experts state that the moment after an elevator becomes stuck, the individual inside should try to work the open/close buttons, holding each down for five seconds. If this doesn’t work, you should not attempt to exit the elevator by physically opening the door, as this can be hazardous, even fatal, if the car starts up again. Instead, you should use an elevator phone to get the needed help on the way. A mechanic or other trained professional will come sooner than you think, so it’s best to not panic.

A stuck elevator isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person, but it surely is a nuisance. It is hard to believe, too, that elevators, which have been around for the past two centuries, still have this problem. Of course, elevators have been improved upon greatly over time, beginning with the first safety system installation in 1857 in case something went wrong. Today, even though these lift systems have become incredible advanced, as machinery that functions with the use of electricity and programming, they are prone to occasional errors and bugs.

Building codes and other requirements exist to limit unwanted elevator stops and shutdowns as much as possible through proper maintenance and care. These are regulated at the local level, and in the United States are controlled by laws set by city, town, county, or state governments. You can view these for all of the 50 states here:

Guidelines for the design, construction, installation, operation, testing, inspection, maintenance, alteration, and repair of elevators are addressed in ASME A17.1/CSA B44-2019: Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. This standard has long overseen the necessary recommendations for elevators, ever since its initial publication in 1921, and has undergone continuous updates to guarantee that its compliance leads to reliable installation and use of lifts.

Following ASME A17.1 to work on elevator in shaft and make sure it doesn't get stuck.

International standards written and developed by ISO also address safety considerations for elevators and make efforts to prevent elevators from stopping accidentally. For example, ISO 8100-33: 2022 – Lifts for the transport of person and goods – Part 33: T-Type guide rails for lift cars and counterweights specifies the standard sizes and geometrical tolerances for guide rails that guide the movement of the elevator cars, act as counterweights, operate as stabilization, and are part of a safety system

Because of these standards and regulations, elevators are safe, and the likelihood of harm in one is immensely low. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are an average of 27 fatalities per 18 billion uses annually. That means there’s a 0.00000015% chance of death in an elevator trip.

For any passenger who might have a fear of elevators, it is important to remember that laws and standards together ensure passenger safety. In addition, many beliefs about elevators are greatly misconceived. For example, some people have a fear of an elevator car cable snapping, plummeting them to the ground. However, in the hundreds of years that elevators have existed, even with past technology, this is only known to have happened once, in the Empire State Building, after a plane collided with the elevator cable in 1941. Even with this, the emergency auto brake was able to prevent the lift car from freefalling.

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2 thoughts on “Stuck Elevators: Guidelines for Prevention and Management
  1. Yikes! My biggest fear…small spaces…claustrophobia…a stuck elevator could cause problems for ME!
    I had a hard time breathing, just reading your article. (kidding)
    Mrs. Villani

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