A fire event should never be the first time you attempt to take control of an elevator, writes Brian Zaitz.

By Brian Zaitz
Elevators provide quick access to upper and lower floors by an elevator car. These cars vary in size, with almost all elevators having one elevator larger than the others to provide space for large items to be moved up and down (typically known as the freight elevator). As with anything, proper use and practice are needed for success. A fire event should never be the first time you attempt to take control of an elevator.
Elevators normally operate by a passenger requesting a car to his desired floor. The car reaches the floor, the doors open, and the passenger enters and selects the desired floor. The car doors close and the elevator proceeds, possibly stopping along the way for additional passengers. This is considered “normal” operations.

During an emergency the elevators can go into one of three phases of operations:
Note that, although elevators provide quick and efficient movement of personnel and equipment within the structure, they do have their limitations and risks. When engaging in elevators for fire suppression operations, it is imperative to look into the elevator shaft for smoke or fire. If the shaft is compromised, do not use the elevator.
Also, do not use the elevator if the interior fireman’s call light is blinking; this indicates that the shaft has a smoke or heat detector activation. In addition, test the elevator. Department standard operating guidelines will vary, but it is normal practice to stop every three to five floors while going up; this ensures the elevator is continuing to function correctly and provides an opportunity for the company officer to check the elevator shaft and floor for smoke or fire. It also provides situational awareness and safety to the crews.
Don’t ever take the elevator car directly to the fire floor. It is recommended to exit two floors below the fire floor; this affords the company the opportunity to view the floor layout in nonsmoke and fire conditions, have unrestricted movement to the stairwell, and provide connection to the standpipe system for fire attack.
Elevators are key tool for high-rise operations and a convenience on medical alarms. Take the time to visit the elevators in your community and take control of the elevators on your next medical run so when the fire happens, your familiarity with them will allow you to conduct safe and efficient operations.
Download this training bulletin as a PDF HERE (3.3 MB)
Brian ZaitzBrian Zaitz is a 14-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the captain/training officer with the Metro West (MO) Fire Protection District. Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC as well as instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy.  Brian holds several degrees, including an associates in paramedic technology, a bachelors in fire science management, and a masters in human resource development. Brian is currently and accredited chief training officer and student of the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program.
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