Elevator Entrapment Evacuation Procedures

Written by denise brandenberg
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Elevator Entrapment Evacuation Procedures
Elevator technical issues and entrapments are common in older buildings. (the elevator image by Pix by Marti from Fotolia.com)

Many people have a fear of getting trapped in an elevator. While it rarely happens, it can be scary situation. There are certain procedures to follow when and if elevator entrapment occurs. Rescuers follow specific procedures, and those who are actually trapped inside the elevator need to follow certain protocols as well.

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The building or facilities management team is responsible for managing the elevator entrapment rescue procedures. This team should be in direct contact with the trapped elevator passengers through the elevator intercom or phone system. If you are part of this team, let the trapped passengers know that they are safe and that steps are being taken to rescue them. Tell them to refrain from smoking and to stand clear of the doors. Ask them if the lights are on in the elevator and how many people are in the elevator car. Find out if there are any ill or injured passengers as well.


The facilities management team should immediately notify the elevator manufacturer when entrapment occurs. If the company does not have trained personnel in the area, the team should call the local fire brigade. Once the rescuers arrive, an assessment of the elevator occurs. According to the University of Houston, this assessment typically includes determining where the elevator is situated (in relation to the landing levels), as well as why the elevator stalled. For example, some elevators entrap people because the power went off throughout the entire building.


After determining where the elevator is and why it stalled, the facilities management team and rescuers should turn the mainline disconnect switch to the "On" position. Many firefighters have keys that will activate the emergency switch to recall the elevator to the main floor. If this does not work and the elevator is stalled near a landing, the mainline switch should be turned to the "Off" position. The doors can then be manually opened, and a rescuer may climb into the car to turn the elevator to the "Stop" position. Passengers are then assisted out of the car, one at a time.

Passenger and Witness Procedures

If you are trapped in an elevator, remember to stay calm. According to Central Michigan University, passengers should never attempt to pry open the elevator doors or attempt to use the overhead hatch. Most elevators have emergency buttons and phones that enable you to call the building management team. Simply press the emergency call button and follow the given instructions. Wait patiently until help arrives.

If you are outside the elevator shaft and witness a person or group trapped in the elevator, alert the building facilities team. If you are not sure who to contact, call 911. Try to talk to the people trapped inside the elevator by yelling through the elevator door. Tell them that you've taken steps to alert the proper authorities, and remind them to stay calm. If you can, stay outside the elevator until the rescuers arrive.

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