What Elevator Codes Say About Fires and Fire Safety

As the rider of an elevator for most of your life, you likely have seen the placards displayed in lobbies telling people to use the stairs in the event of fire. This is dictated by elevator codes, but these codes are much more complex than a simple sign, particularly as it applies to elevators and fires.

Fire Safety Tips for Elevators

Elevator code, governed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), is formally known as the A17 Life Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. A17 is the foundation for most requirements taken on at the local level. ASME standards dictated that once a fire is known to have started, elevators will operate under either Phase I or Phase II regulations.
Under Phase I, elevators that are more than 25 feet above the main lobby return a) to a designated landing area or b) to an alternative area. Phase I operation can be activated manually with a key, or automatically with a fire alarm-initiation device. Phase 1 could be triggered, for example, by a sensor that detects smoke in the hoist way or machine room. The elevators should be removed from service so that occupants don’t use elevators during a fire and potentially become trapped. In regard to Phase II operations, this is used by firefighters as an override only after Phase I has been activated. Firefighters will use a key switch to operate the elevator if the hoist way is clear of smoke and the elevator indeed has power from electricity.

Elevator Code Updates

ASME conducts annual hazard analyses and has been doing so since 2004. This is done to determine whether or not to recommend changes to A17 that would allow the use of elevators for evacuation. These are studies that are done to fully explore the efficacy of using elevators in the event an evacuation needs to take place. It’s taken so long due to the technological and behavioral challenges involved. Leaders must evaluate many things, such as how smoke would be handled. Also, it’s not easy to instruct occupants when appropriate to evacuate in an elevator, as the decision to do so could vary depending on the kind of emergency, the type of building, and the location of the occupants. These questions and more may require changes to the elevator control systems themselves. Adding to the difficulty in the use of elevators for evacuation is that any changes made would impact fire, building and elevator codes for years to come. It is fair to say that many more studies have to be done before this change can be made.

Contact Mowrey Elevator

To learn more about fire codes and fire safety, contact us today. We also do emergency repairs as well as installations to keep you up to code.