What To Do if You Get Trapped in an Elevator

Picture this – you’re going about your normal workday. After a busy morning of meetings in your second-floor office, you decide to go outside and get some fresh air. You step into the elevator and push the ground floor button. The doors close, the elevator starts to descend… and then jolts to a stop between floors. You wait a few seconds, frantically push the buttons, and nothing happens. You realize you are trapped in the elevator.

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With millions of people using them multiple times each day, elevators are the busiest, most popular form of transportation in the world. While they are also one of the safest forms of transportation, from time to time, members of the riding public can occasionally find themselves stuck in an elevator.

In the unlikely event that this was to happen to you, it’s important to know precisely what to do – and, perhaps even more importantly – precisely what not to do in this situation. Let’s take a closer look at elevator entrapments, and what members of the riding public, building managers, and other building personnel must do to ensure that nobody gets hurt.

What if I Get Trapped in an Elevator?

If you ever find yourself trapped in an elevator, the first thing to remember is not to panic. There is no danger of the elevator running out of air – the ventilation systems installed in the elevator system guarantee a steady supply of fresh, breathable air, even in the event of entrapment.

Despite the stories you may have heard about elevators falling, the likelihood of an elevator falling is incredibly low (in fact, because of the way an elevator is designed, it is far more likely to ‘fall up’ than to fall down!). But – in the extremely rare event that you do find yourself in a falling elevator, you can’t jump at the last second to save yourself. Thankfully, the odds of someone being caught in a falling elevator are so slim that the “jump” is essentially a non-issue.

The great majority of the time, the reason the elevator stopped in the first place is because of a building-wide power outage or because the elevator’s safety features kicked in. All elevators are equipped with sophisticated monitoring systems equipped to detect irregularities in functioning and speed. Should it detect a problem, its braking system will automatically engage and hold the elevator in a safe position until a skilled elevator technician can arrive on the scene to assess the situation, free the trapped passengers, and then diagnose and correct the issue that caused it to stop.

Do not attempt to force the doors open, do not pry open the escape hatch in the ceiling, and do not interfere with any other parts of the elevator’s equipment. Especially in a situation where a power outage caused an elevator to stall, the elevator could re-start abruptly at any moment. Passengers attempting to free themselves from stuck elevators have been hurt and even killed when the power came back on and the elevator started moving again unexpectedly.

One piece of equipment that is there for use by passengers is the elevator’s emergency phone or communication device. If you are trapped inside an elevator, immediately call for help. This device will automatically connect you with building security, emergency services, or an elevator service company. All have people ready to answer calls 24 hours a day.

You can also press the elevator’s alarm bell, which produces a loud ringing noise others in the building can hear; this will alert them to the fact that you are stuck.

The Protocol for Building Managers

If you are a building manager who receives notice that someone is trapped in your building’s elevator, your first responsibility will be to contact emergency services or your elevator service company immediately. If there is a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency services department right away. After giving them information about where the building is and what floor of the building the elevator is on, reassure the trapped person that they are not in any danger, they must not panic, and they must not attempt to free themselves or interfere with the elevator equipment until a professional arrives. Communicating with the people inside will help relieve their anxiety.

Once the elevator constructor or emergency services arrives to free the trapped occupants, you and your staff may be asked to accompany them to the stalled elevator and/or the elevator machine room. Once you’ve given them the information they need, it’s time to sit back and let them do the work they’ve been trained to do.

Professionals: They’re Trained for This

While elevators are extremely safe for the riding public, they contain complex and potentially dangerous machinery behind the scenes. The industry’s most qualified elevator constructors participate in years of training and education through a nationally recognized registered apprenticeship program like the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP). NEIEP apprentices must complete 4+ years of classroom courses along with 8,000 hours of supervised on-the-job learning under the supervision of an experienced mechanic – and pass a capstone mechanic exam – to achieve status as a mechanic.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has created extensive elevator safety codes that vary by jurisdiction. IUEC elevator constructors are knowledgeable about how to interpret and apply these code requirements to ensure the safety and well-being of the riding public. Don’t put your elevator equipment and the people who use it at risk by allowing individuals without the proper education and experience to service it.

Final Thoughts

Remember – if you ever find yourself trapped in an elevator, don’t panic, and don’t ever attempt to get out of it yourself! Use the emergency phone/communication device to speak with building security, emergency personnel, or a dispatcher from the elevator service company, and someone will be on their way immediately to help you safely exit the elevator and resume your daily routine.

For building managers, your primary responsibility is to ensure that the professionals and/or emergency services can get to where they need to be to assist the trapped passengers. It’s important to know what to do in an entrapment situation, but it’s even more important to do everything you can to prevent one from happening in the first place. The best way to do this? Make sure your elevator systems are inspected, tested, and serviced regularly, including receiving the recommended preventive periodic maintenance. And don’t forget to test the alarm bell in your elevator!

Contact ElevatorInfo to be connected with a reliable elevator service company who can help ensure your conveyance systems are running the way they should.

NEIEP apprenticeship

Several times a year, engineers, writers, and other Development staff along with Area Coordinators from the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP) travel from the NEIEP Instructor Training Center in Warwick, Rhode Island to locations throughout the country to showcase the elevator industry’s most comprehensive education and training program.

This year, the state of Texas featured prominently on the list of places where NEIEP fairs were held. International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 133 members Pat Coker, Jarred Baker, and Bobby Harper stopped by a NEIEP fair in Austin. Pat, Jarred, and Bobby all work as elevator constructors in the field for TK Elevator. While they were checking out demonstrations of the hands-on lab materials at the NEIEP fair, they also had the chance to spend time talking with Development Department head Lester White and some of the other experienced staff and subject matter experts who write the textbooks and lab manuals and design the hands-on labs NEIEP uses in its IUEC elevator constructor apprentice and mechanic training in classrooms across the United States.

Pat told us that years ago when he became an elevator constructor, he didn’t have access to the type of intensive, hands-on training that IUEC apprentices participate in through NEIEP today. “It’s a lot different,” he said. “They are required to be there four hours a night – it’s more hands-on with the labs.” He continued, “all the lab work that you see in here today – we didn’t have that when I went through (the education program), so seeing the technology and the growth – it helps them out in the field so they can apply what they do in the field in the classroom, and vice-versa.”

Through on-site classes held weekly at IUEC Locals across the US, as well as online classrooms that the students can access using their home computers, NEIEP courses teach IUEC elevator constructors the foundational and specialized skills they’ll need to build, modernize, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair complex pieces of conveyance machinery including elevators, escalators, moving walks, Automated People Movers, wind turbine conveyance systems, and more – all safely and efficiently. A USDOL-registered apprenticeship program held to the highest standards, NEIEP’s is the most respected education program in the trade. In fact, a number of colleges and universities recognize NEIEP courses as equivalent to college-level learning.

The NEIEP apprenticeship program for elevator constructors doesn’t stop at classroom learning; incoming apprentices also log 8,000 hours of field work under the supervision of an experienced mechanic. After that, they must pass a capstone Mechanic Exam to advance to mechanic status. This combination of classroom courses and field work is why incoming IUEC elevator constructors quickly become the best-trained, most well-rounded workers in the conveyance industry.

Bobby, an IUEC elevator constructor apprentice who works under Pat’s direction, spoke about how important the apprentice – mechanic partnership is, and how being able to apply the skills he learns in the classroom to his work in the field has enhanced his learning all around. “Whenever you mention following in his lead, that’s step-by-step,” he said. “When it comes to safety or troubleshooting, we’re starting our process off in the truck in the morning – what are we doing today? What are we getting into? From the start – even before work starts – we’re brainstorming how we’re going to tackle this task efficiently, and most importantly, safely.”

“He and I have a routine,” Pat continued. “It’s always, ‘let’s go look at it’ first. ‘Let’s go get a visual game plan of what we want to do, how we’re going to accomplish it’ – then we’ll tool-up and we’ll discuss it all the way back and forth to the jobsite. So the stuff that they’re learning in class, that goes along with it. I think it’s a great benefit to have.”

“Coming up as an Apprentice, your Mechanic is a person to lean on every single day,” said Bobby. “Pat has been around the nation working on elevators from two-stops all the way up… I’ve devoted the past five years of my life to an education program to get to where I am now – to hopefully fill (his) shoes.”


For more information about the most comprehensive education program in the elevator industry, check out https://www.neiep.org/.

ElevatorInfo recently traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to speak with Stacey Jackson, owner of TriStar Elevator and Brandon Jackson, TriStar’s Vice President. Headquartered in the suburb of Columbia, TN, TriStar’s crew of 14 IUEC elevator constructors install and service conveyance systems across the middle-Tennessee area. Described as “a full-service elevator company,” TriStar provides residential and commercial services including modernization, repair, and new installation.

While Brandon started his career as an elevator constructor years ago, the decision to launch a new elevator company as a family business was fairly recent. “We started this four years ago – it’s very hard, but it’s very rewarding as well,” said Stacey.

Being an IUEC-affiliated elevator company was a priority for TriStar from the start. “We are an independent union company. We look at each one of our employees like they’re a family member,” said Brandon. “When we hire somebody, we want them to succeed – so being able to provide that workplace for them – (that’s important) to me, knowing that everyday they’ve got a company that wants them to work safe, wants them to go home safe – and we have resources to make that happen.”

Stacey spoke about how the reputation of IUEC-trained mechanics as highly-skilled and safety-focused has benefitted TriStar when it comes to securing new work. “When a potential customer finds out that we are a union company, it changes the game in the fact that they know what they’re getting. They know the safety procedures, the training – they’re going to get good-quality workers.”

Brandon described it as an investment. “A lot of our larger, new equipment installations – our contractors, that’s one of the first questions they ask. ‘Are you a union company?’ And when you say yes, they realize we have resources to find employees that are trained. We’re not hiring off the street, we’re hiring people who have come through an apprenticeship program. They’ve been properly trained and have those elevator safety resources and that safety background to do the job right.”

While in many cases non-union elevator constructors aren’t required to participate in any formal training program before beginning work in the field, upon hire, IUEC elevator apprentices are immediately enrolled in the industry’s most comprehensive education and training program through the National Elevator Industry Educational Program (NEIEP). NEIEP administers a four-plus year USDOL Registered Apprenticeship with hands-on training in the classroom and 8,000 hours of supervised training under the direction of an experienced mechanic. Once an elevator constructor completes their apprenticeship and passes a capstone Mechanic Exam, they can keep learning through NEIEP’s continuing education courses, available online and in classrooms nationwide.

NEIEP training prepares apprentices and mechanics not only to work on the latest conveyance equipment on the market, but also to service, troubleshoot, and repair older equipment that many elevator constructors encounter on their service routes. Brandon describes how having access to this type of education and training when he was just starting out made him a well-rounded elevator constructor ready to handle whatever type of conveyance equipment his customers needed help with, and how it drove him to prioritize staffing TriStar with elevator constructors who have diverse and varied field experience. “While TriStar is a younger company, we have years of experience,” he said. “Most of our mechanics are 10 years plus – and we have a great new group of young workers coming into the trade,” he said.

Describing his own experience as an apprentice and field mechanic, he said, “I learned how to work on generators, I learned how to work on relay logic – and I think that’s something that a lot of people are losing sight of. We as a company pride ourselves on being able to work on that because so many other companies have lost a lot of that over the years. I feel like that’s one thing we’ve done well at TriStar elevator – we’re able to go in where other companies couldn’t necessarily keep the equipment running. We have the experience level to go in and still maintain that equipment. I learned from someone, and we’re doing the same thing – we’re trying to make sure that our apprentices are learning those skills.”

While in Tennessee, ElevatorInfo staff visited several of TriStar’s active job sites including one at a major airport, one at a busy parking garage, and another at a building under construction on lower Broadway in the heart of downtown Nashville. We were impressed with both the state-of-the-art systems they were installing in the new building as well as the meticulously clean and neat machine spaces around the elevator systems they were maintaining.

The knowledge that TriStar employees are taken care of by a generous benefit plan is also a plus for Brandon and Stacey. The IUEC provides the best health care coverage there is for its members and their families, without extra premium costs. Through the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, their employees have access to medical, prescription drug, mental health/substance abuse disorder, dental, vision, and hearing benefits well beyond what other companies offer.

Top-quality education and training, a robust health care plan, and the security of a reliable plan for retirement through the IUEC’s Pension, Annuity, and 401K benefits allow the elevator constructor apprentices and mechanics who work for TriStar Elevator to focus on getting their work done without the worries or distractions that workers at companies without this security may face. Consistent quality work and attentive customer service are the result.

“(With) a company like TriStar as an independent, you get specialized care – we do better with our goals in customer service. We answer the phone, we respond to emails, this is a service-based company, a service-based trade,” said Brandon. “When we can take that elevator off of that property manager’s mind, they can worry about the rest of their building. When we can take that elevator installation off of the project manager’s mind… we’ve done our job.”

To learn more about the advantages of becoming IUEC-affiliated or about hiring an IUEC-affiliated company like TriStar Elevator to install, service, troubleshoot, modernize, repair, or inspect your elevators, escalators, or other conveyance equipment, contact ElevatorInfo.