Elevators and Fire Safety – Do You Have a Plan?

Elevators and Fire Safety – Do You Have a Plan?

Did you know that October is fire prevention month? This is the time of year to make sure you have a fire safety plan in place—both at home and at work. If your workplace has elevators, your company’s fire safety plan should include details about the use of elevators during an emergency. If yours doesn’t, or if you aren’t up to speed on your company’s elevator emergency use policies, consider this your reminder to make sure you and your team know what to do in case of an emergency. Let’s go over a few basic elevator emergency safety tips to get you on the right track.

Elevator Safety in an Emergency

We all know not to use an elevator during a fire emergency, but do you know why that is? There are many reasons to steer clear of an elevator during a fire, but the primary reasons are:

  • A fire can short out the electrical system, causing you to become stuck between floors.
  • An elevator shaft acts like a chimney and can fill up with smoke quickly, putting you at risk of smoke inhalation.
  • If you become trapped in an elevator during a fire emergency, firefighters will understandably need to prioritize rescuing you over putting out the fire.

In a fire emergency, leave the elevators for emergency personnel to use so they can quickly and efficiently address the situation.

If you do get stuck in an elevator cab during a fire emergency, stay calm and press the emergency button or call for help. Never try to pry open the doors or open the escape hatch—wait for emergency personnel to rescue you. 

If you are in a wheelchair or are otherwise unable to take the stairs to get out of the building, firefighters will be able to use the elevator’s fire service mode option (see below for more on this) to help you evacuate using the elevator. Do not attempt to use the elevator yourself during a fire emergency—call for help and wait for firefighters or other emergency personnel to arrive.

What Does the Star of Life Signify on an Elevator?

The blue asterisk-shaped symbol known as the Star of Life has become the universal sign for emergency medical services since its creation in 1977. The six points of the Star of Life symbolize the six stages of EMS care: detection, reporting, response, on-scene care, care in transit, and transfer to definitive care. 

This symbol is used in a variety of contexts, including on uniforms, ambulances, emergency medical equipment, highway signs, and more. When you see the Star of Life signage on an elevator, it means that the elevator is big enough to accommodate a 24” x 84” stretcher. It’s a sign that EMS providers look for in an emergency situation so they can quickly determine which elevator to use.

Elevator Fire Service Modes

All elevators are equipped with fire service modes, enabling firefighters to continue using the elevator during a fire. There are two phases to fire service mode:

Phase 1 begins automatically when an elevator’s smoke or heat sensors are tripped, sending the elevator to the ground floor (or another floor if smoke or fire are detected on the ground floor). The doors open, allowing any passengers to get out. The elevator then stops responding to calls for service so it can be available to firefighters when they arrive.

Phase 2 is initiated by firefighters when they arrive on the scene. This phase is activated from a key switch on the control panel inside the elevator. All newer elevators accept a universal elevator key that every fire department has. This key enables rescue personnel to operate the elevator manually so they can move from floor to floor as needed, allowing them to evacuate the building quickly and put out the fire. Older elevators should ideally be retrofitted to accept the standard elevator key, but if that’s not possible an elevator fire service key box should be attached to a wall near the elevator on the primary recall floor. The box should include only the elevator fire service key—nothing else.

Elevator Signage for Fire Safety

Knowing the basics of elevator fire safety and ensuring your company has a plan in place for emergencies are crucial parts of ensuring the safety of everyone in your building. Having the correct elevator signage is vital as well. If your building is in need of elevator emergency signage, SCS has you covered. We have Star of Life signs, firefighter operations signage, fire hat emblems, and more. Shop our signage here and Contact Us if you have questions or other elevator signage, braille, or button needs. We look forward to helping you out!

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