What should students do in an elevator entrapment?

Five elevator entrapments occurred in the first two and a half months of spring 2019, and nine at the end of fall 2018, according to incident journals provided by the Emerson College Police Department. No injuries resulting from the entrapments have been reported so far.

With this rise in elevator entrapments, editors at the Beacon wondered what causes elevators to malfunction and what students should do in the event of an entrapment.

What causes an elevator entrapment?

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Director of Building Operations Joseph Knoll said in an interview that complications with the elevator doors have caused most of the entrapments. If the elevator senses something unusual, it may trigger an emergency response to stop the elevator.

Additionally, if the elevator reaches close to the maximum weight, which varies in different elevators, it may stop working normally. If someone jumps or pushes others, this can move the cables or cause a weight imbalance on one side. The elevator system can process this as a hazard, and stop functioning.

What should students do if they experience an elevator entrapment?

Knoll recommends students first try to press the “open door” button. If that doesn’t work, students should attempt to access other floors by pressing the corresponding button.

If neither option works, press the button marked with a bell on the lower left side of the call panel. The call will notify ECPD to contact Facilities Management. Knoll said Facilities Management will arrive with both elevator mechanics and ECPD.

What should students say in a phone call to ECPD if trapped?

Individuals should state who they are, where they are, who else is in the elevator, and whether there is a medical emergency—such as claustrophobia or any other urgent issues.

“The first thing is, don’t go panic,” ECPD Deputy Chief Eric Schiazza said. “Tell us everything calmly, and clearly.”

What if the emergency call button doesn’t work?

Schiazza said students should try to contact people outside the elevator, either by using their phone or by shouting loudly to attract attention.

Pounding on the door is okay to get attention.

The emergency call buttons rarely malfunction and are tested yearly to make sure they work properly, Schiazza said.

On average, how long does it take to send someone to repair an elevator?

Knoll said the response time depends on the specific case.

If the entrapment occurs on a weekday between 6 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Knoll said Facilities Management will respond to the situation with mechanics in approximately five minutes. If an individual is trapped in an elevator outside of this time range, a Facilities Management staff member will call an elevator mechanic to the school.

The college’s contract with local elevator company Delta Beckwith Elevator states that mechanics must respond within an hour after receiving a report. Only elevator mechanics with a license have the ability to open the door or repair an elevator.

If elevator mechanics do not come within an hour, or if a medical emergency occurs in the elevator, Facilities Management will contact the Boston Fire Department or 911, Knoll and Schiazza said.

How long should students expect to be stuck if they do get trapped in an elevator?

Schiazza said the average wait time is between five and 15 minutes, however, each case is different depending on various factors, like if the elevator is stuck halfway between floors or if there is something jamming the doors such as coins or debris in the bottom door track.

What shouldn’t students do if they get stuck?

Both Knoll and Schiazza emphasized that students should not panic.

Schiazza said he understands being stuck in an elevator is uncomfortable. However, most injuries in an entrapment happen when an individual tries to climb out or forcefully breaks something in the elevator.

“The elevators are very sensitive and have a safety [response] for everything,” Knoll said.

What are the signs an elevator may have a problem or the potential to break down?

Knoll said students may feel the elevator shaking, or the door may keep opening and closing abnormally.

“We get a lot of those calls and we respond to them right away because we don’t know what it is,” he said. “The last thing we want is an entrapment.”

How often does the college perform maintenance on the elevators?  

A Delta Beckwith Elevator Company mechanic checks all of the elevators on campus every weekday morning, Knoll said.

Knoll said he receives a monthly report on everything the mechanic inspected. Additionally, every five years the private consultant company Lerch Bates Building Insight assesses the condition of the elevators on campus.

The consultant company last assessed the elevators during the fall 2014 semester—four and a half years ago, Knoll said. They will come back to Emerson this summer to complete another assessment.

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