By Tyler Stocks
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Becoming trapped in an elevator can be terrifying but knowing what to do — and what not do — is the difference between a safe rescue and serious injury or death, expert say.
Elevator incidents are more common that people might think. So far this year, Greenville Fire-Rescue has responded to 15 separate rescue situations. In 2018, the agency responded to 20.
To stay prepared for such rescues, crews spent several hours on Wednesday practicing at Minges Coliseum.
“With the city growing the way it is and the influx of bigger and bigger buildings, we see a lot more elevator rescues on a more common basis,” Fire/Rescue II Tyler Kelly said. “It’s important for us to become more knowledgeable with the different kind of elevators that we see on a regular basis and how to get people safely in and out of those spaces.”
Some of the variables crews had to evaluate during Wednesday’s simulation included the fall potential for the rescuer team and those in the elevator, tight spaces, lack of lighting and an inability to get equipment into the elevator space.
Cpt. Mervin Taylor oversaw the training and said preparing for these events is vital, even if they happen infrequently.
“This is a low-frequency, high-risk event and we want to make sure our personnel are prepared,” Taylor said. “We’re very fortunate to have relationships with ECU and our other large corporate partners in the city that allow us to have these opportunities.”
Taylor said Greenville Fire-Rescue trains for elevator rescues at various facilities so that crews can be ready for anything.
“We work with our partners collectively to make it a safer, more vibrant community for both the responders and the community partners,” he said. “We’ve worked with contractors in town, different businesses such as Vidant and ECU as well.”
In the event of a medical emergency that takes place in an elevator, Taylor said crews immediately will treat patients while they work to free them.
“We’re going to instruct those with them to remain calm and we’re going to gain access to that patient and we’re going to do our best to stabilize them in place while we’re working to get that elevator to a safe location to remove them out,” he said.
No matter the situation, Taylor said people should know that elevators are safe, even if they get stuck.
“The elevator is built to keep you in it and is safe now as they’ve ever been,” Taylor said. “Even though the elevator may stop, keep in mind it’s not going anywhere.”
Elevator safety tips
If trapped in an elevator, Kelly recommends staying calm.
“Once the elevator is stopped, it’s not going to move again,” he said. “If you have your cellphone, call 911.”
Some newer elevators have phones inside and Kelly said to use these if possible as cellphone reception inside an elevator can be spotty.
“Use that phone to contact whoever is on the receiving end and they can call 911,” he said. “Let them know many people are in the elevator if there are any potential injuries.”
Data obtained on Wednesday from the North Carolina Department of Labor found 50 elevator inspections that are past due in Pitt County. Department of Labor Spokeswoman Mary Katherine Revels said the sites were due for inspection in July and August, so many will be inspected by the end of the month.
“It is not uncommon for there to be a slight lapse between inspections,” Revels said. “Please note that most elevators in the state have licensed elevator contractors that perform monthly maintenance, so the public’s safety is not in jeopardy when there is a slight lapse.”