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What you thought you knew about elevators debunked

Chances are at some point in your life you’ve watched a movie where an elevator goes into reckless free-fall after a rope snaps and wondered if it could happen to you. Do you know the truth?

May 15, 2019

Not all that you see in entertainment is true. Elevators and escalators are highly regulated and designed with many safety features that protect passengers. At KONE, we are committed to safety and work closely with the people who rely on our products for safe and smooth transport as they go about their day.

Safe elevator and escalator use is a joint effort between manufacturers, the people who use the equipment and the owners of the equipment and those who maintain it.

Let’s debunk a few urban legends and restore your trust regarding the overall safety of the equipment.

Myth #1: Elevators are held up by one rope that could break, leaving passengers in a free-falling car.

Think again! Elevators are supported by multiple steel cables and each cable alone can support a fully loaded car. It is very unusual for even a single rope to break, and even in the extremely improbable case of all the ropes snapping, features like the overspeed governor kick into action to slow down the elevator and bring it to a halt using a chain of mechanical reactions. Sorry to spoil the excitement, but those action scenes where the sparks fly off the guide rails as the elevator races down uncontrollably are pure cinema.

Myth #2: An overcrowded elevator will fall.

Not true. An overloaded car will normally not move. The doors will stay open and a buzzer may ring until enough people get off the elevator to reduce the weight. Many elevators are equipped with technology that will effectively distribute riders among the available elevators to prevent overcrowding in the first place.

Myth #3: If an elevator gets stuck between floors, there is a danger of oxygen running out in the car.

Don’t hold your breath on this one. Elevator cars are well ventilated. There’s a minimum requirement for ventilation openings where at least two percent of the floor area of an elevator should be made up of vents that let air move freely in and out. In some cases, elevators are also equipped with air conditioning.

Myth #4: It’s possible to escape from inside an elevator car into the shaft through a safety hatch.

Keep calm and whatever you do, don’t try this out! Safety hatches or trap doors do exist for rescue purposes, but passengers should never attempt to use them as escape routes. Most emergency escape hatches can only be opened from the outside by rescue professionals. So, if you’re trapped in an elevator, the safest thing you can do is stay put and wait to be rescued. Never attempt to get out by yourself and never pry an elevator’s doors open either because the elevator might not be in the door zone. You could put yourself and other passengers in danger.

Myth #5: Pushing the call button multiple times will make the elevator arrive faster.

Sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t the case. When you push the button, the elevator gets your “call” and its software determines the elevator’s route. There are simpler and more sophisticated call systems, but the basic idea is the same – one push is enough to generate action. Pushing the button several times often makes us feel like we are doing something to speed up the arrival of the elevator – but in reality, it doesn’t make any difference.

Read more about elevator and escalator safety in our safety pages.

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