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Basic Elevator Use at High-Rise Buildings

A basic understanding of elevators is a must for companies involved in high-rise fire suppression activities. Elevators can be used to shuttle men and supplies to the floors above. Elevators will be used extensively early on, but be prepared for elevators to be placed out of service during an extended event due to water damage or loss of power.

A few basic rules to understand with elevator use:
1. If the fire is on the 7th floor or below, take the stairs.

2. Firefighters should stop the elevator every few floors
to check the hoist way for fire or smoke.

3. The firefighter assigned to control the elevator
should be in full PPE and equipped with a
pair of irons and pike pole or hook.

4. When shuttling firefighters in the elevator take care
to not over load the elevator.

5. Take the elevator to two floors below the reported
fire floor and walk the remaining two

6. When choosing an elevator in a high-rise make sure
you identify local elevators (serve individual floors)
vs express elevators. Express elevators do not stop
on every floor. An example would be going from
ground floor to the 50th floor nonstop.

7. If the  red fireman's helmet is flashing inside the elevator, get off.  This is triggered by smoke detectors in the elevator shaft.

There are two main control modes on an elevator that firefighters need to be familiar with. Phase I (recall) and Phase II (firefighter mode).

Phase I is elevator lobby recall. Some buildings will have automatic recall of passenger elevators caused by activation of smoke or heat detectors, sprinkler flow, or another fire alarm device.

Phase I recall can also be manually activated in older buildings as well through the use of the elevator control key. When the car reaches the lobby, all hoist way doors should open and remain open allowing firefighters to ensure that occupants are not in a stalled elevator somewhere above the lobby.

Phase II is firefighter control. Once the elevator car is recalled to the home floor, it can be placed into Phase Two control manually by firefighters operating in the building, utilizing an elevator key.

Phase II allows firefighters to independently control an elevator car for emergency use. Some older elevators may not be equipped with Phase II. Firefighters should never use an elevator that is not equipped with Phase II.

Elevator keys vary from vendor to vendor. Some jurisdictions and states such as Florida have required different districts or sections of the state, or all of the state, to all have the same elevator key. The 2007 edition of the ASME A17.1, "Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators" created a universal key called the FEO-K1. Some states have adopted this. You should be aware of your jurisdiction and if all keys are the same or different keys are allowed. If different keys are allowed, it is always a good idea to require the occupancy to place an elevator key in the Knox Box and Fire Control Room.

The following are the steps for Phase Two operation of elevators in high-rises:

∞ Locate fire service control key.

∞ Insert the key in the red fire service key slot and turn to the on position. This will recall the elevator to its home floor and enable in-car controls.

∞ Once in the car depress the call cancel button. This will cancel any commands that have already been sent to the elevator car.

∞ Insert the fire service key into the fire service slot and switch to the on position. This will allow you to control the elevator car from within the elevator.

∞ Once in fire service mode the car doors can only be opened and closed manually be pressing the open or close button and holding it until the operation is complete. The floor can then be manually selected. Remember, once you arrive at the selected floor you must keep the door open button fully depressed until the door completely opens.

∞ To keep the car on the selected floor, switch the fire service key to the hold position. You should keep a firefighter with the car or place a tool, such as a halligan or hook in the path of the door in case the hold feature fails.

∞ On the way up you should stop the elevator car to check the stop feature. When the car stops, open the door and shine a light up the shaft to check for any smoke or water. If the car fails to respond properly, return to the recall floor and choose another car. If there is any smoke, fire, or water in the hoistway exit the elevator immediately and take the stairs the rest of the way.

∞ DO NOT stop on the fire floor, stop two floors below and utilize the stairs for the last two floors.

During the early stages of the fire, due to the need for man power for fire suppression activities, some departments find it acceptable for initial companies taking the elevator to place the elevator back in Phase I operation when exiting the elevator which will allow the elevator to return to the lobby. This is accomplished by turning the key inside of the elevator to the OFF position.

You should assign a firefighter to each elevator that will be used in fire service control. This eliminates the learning curve for each company with the particular buildings elevator system.Phase I  Above

Phase II Above

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