STRATEGY & TACTICS
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Safety precautions to be used by firefighters when operating an elevator under Firemen Service—Phase II (firefighter use) during a high-rise building fire.
The following items are applicable to all elevators installed in compliance with the New York City Building Code and ANSI A17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators. ANSI 17 has one additional requirement. The lobby keyed switch installed in compliance with ANSI 17 has a “bypass” position. This permits the elevators to be operated as normal while a smoke detector of water flow alarm is still transmitting an alarm. This provision is not permitted in New York City.
To maintain adequate logistics support of fire suppression and rescue operations in a high-rise building, it is a necessity that the elevators be used. All firefighters must be trained in and must observe the following safety precautions when using the elevators under high-rise fire conditions:
- Elevators should never be used if the fire is on the 7th floor or below. It is safer to utilize the fire stairs or fire tower to reach the operating post, which is two floors below the fire or the fire floor.
- Do not use a bank of elevators that serves the fire floor if a lower bank of elevators terminates within five floors of the fire floor. Members not burdened with hose or other equipment may prefer to operate by the “seven floor” principle, as in precaution (1), for reasons of safety.
- The service elevators should be avoided initially until it is ascertained that service elevator lobbies are not involved in the fire.
- An elevator car should never be used if any items other than fire department equipment are in the car. All such items must be removed by the fire department before elevator use.
- Before entering the elevator car, all members should have donned their protective breathing apparatus. The facepiece can be maintained in the standby position.
- The elevator car in Firemen SendeePhase II (firefighter use) should be operated only by fire department personnel familiar with safe operating procedures.
- Not more than six members shall be permitted in any elevator ear. This precaution will accomplish two objectives: It will prevent overloading of the elevator car and it will limit the number of members placed out of service if the car is disabled.
- There must be a member equipped with a portable radio in each elevator car whenever the elevator is in use.
- There must be an iron (claw, Kelly, or Halligan) tool carried aboard each elevator car to be used as follows:
- In the event that the car does not stop at the selected floor, the tool may be used to pry the elevator car doors open, therebydisengaging the car door interlock and stopping the car. The car doors can be opened byhand because only 30 pounds of force is required. The use of an iron is faster and more positive.
- In the event the car should become disabled, these forcible entry tools may be used to extricate the members.
- Due to the need for security, it is often necessary to force your way out of an elevator lobby on upper floors. (In this case I am talking about the doors to the elevator lobby, not the elevator car.) This is another reason for engine companies to carry their assigned tools. They may have to force their way out of the elevator lobby to reach a fire stairs or fire tower, either for reasons of safety or in order to operate.
- When it is necessary’ to utilize an elevator in a bank that serves the fire floor:
- Utilize the Firemen Service elevator cars in that bank.
- Determine if the fire floor is served by an access stairs. Select a floor no closer than two floors below the fire floor, or two floors below the lower level of the access stairs in the fire area, whichever is lowest.
- All units, before leaving the “lobby command post,” should ensure that their unit designation, destination, elevator bank, and number of the car being used has been recorded.
- Before leaving the lobby and at each precautionary stop [see precaution (13)1, a flashlight, directed up between the elevator car and the hoistway shaft, can help to determine if there is an accumulation of smoke in the elevator shaft. An elevator car should never be taken into an area where there is heavy smoke accumulation.
- Elevators should be programmed to stop every five floors (“precautionary stops”) to confirm that the elevator will respond to the manual selections. Before leaving each precautionary stop, a flashlight shall again be directed up between the elevator car and the hoistway shaft to determine if there is any accumulation of smoke in the elevator shaft.
- The position of the elevator relative to the stairways must be noted and confirmed by observation at the first precautionary stop. This is necessary in the event that the elevator should stop at the fire floor and the car must be abandoned. This shall also be done at the last precautionary stop before the selected floor, as the floor configuration may change. The assistance of the “You Are Here” sign in the elevator lobby can be used to assist in the location of the fire stairs.
- To operate the elevator in Firemen Service-Phase II. place the special key in the keyed switch and turn to the “Firemen Service” position upon entering the elevator car. Press the “Door Close” button and select a floor. As soon as the car begins to move, press the “Call Cancel” (or “Reset”) button. The car should stop at the next available landing in response. When the car stops, select another floor on the floor selection panel.
- If the car does not stop at the next available floor in response to the “Call Cancel” button:
- Immediately select the next available safe floor. When the car stops at the next available safe floor, press the “Door Open” button and leave the car. Mark the car as being defective and notify the command post that the car is out of service.
- Attempt to stop the car by forcing the car doors open, thus interrupting the interlock switch. Notify the command post via portable radio to initiate emergency evacuation procedures.
- If the car is operating normally when you reach the selected floor, press the “Door Open” switch. Constant pressure must be kept on this button until the door is fully open, otherw ise the door will automatically reclose. This is a built-in safety feature that allows the doors to dose automatically if adverse conditions are encountered.
- The elevator should not be returned to the lobby floor until the officer has determined that the unit has arrived at the proper location. A firefighter can be assigned to stay with the elevator and make sure that it does not move from the floor until safe access to the fire stairs or fire tower is assured.
- To move from any floor, the “Door Close” button must be pushed, and another floor selected.
- An elevator car can only be placed in Firemen Service—Phase 11 or taken off Firemen Service-Phase II when the car is at the landing where the lobby key switch is located.
- Whenever an elevator car has been placed in Firemen Service-Phase IF it should be operated by a firefighter in the car.
- For security reasons, some occupancies lock the hoistway doors on the elevator shaft on their floors before leaving for the night. This is now illegal in some parts of the country, but you may still encounter it, in which case:
- If your elevator arrives at a floor and the car doors cannot be opened using the normal procedures, make no attempt to force them: the locked hoistway doors, attached by a vane to the elevator car doors, are keeping the elevator doors closed. Any attempt at forcing them open may damage the interlock, placing the elevator out of service;
- If the car doors open, revealing the locked hoistway doors, remove the security lock if it can be done without damage to the door. If removal of the locking device threatens any bending or warping of the door assembly, no attempt shall be made to force the door, as this may place the car out of service.
- If the locked hoistway doors impede progress onto a floor, drop down to a floor where no locks are encountered and leave the elevator car on that floor.
- The “Emergency Stop” button shall not be tested. It shall only be used when it becomes necessary. The use of this button will cause the car to make an abrupt stop. Members must take care during any emergency stop to protect themselves from being thrown about, falling or getting hit with masks, cylinders, or tools. The use of this button also puts an abnormal strain on the hoisting cables and may even stretch them.
- Water in the elevator shaft may make operations extremely hazardous. Water may negate the cars’ electrical safeties, and cars may move with car doors and the hoistway doors open. Members may become trapped between the inside of the car and the elevator lobby opening. Or they may fall down open shafts under heavy smoke conditions in which visibility is limited.
- As a general rule, when an elevator’s behavior becomes erratic, exit the car at the nearest safe floor. Place the car out of service by leaving the car door in the open position by use of the control panel or blocking them open. The car shall be so marked to prevent others from attempting to use the car. The command post shall also be notified.
- If the Elevator Recall-Phase I was initiated automatically by the activation of a lobby smoke detector or sprinkler water flow, the elevators cannot be returned to normal operating conditions until the smoke detector or water flow alarm has been cleared, except with those systems equipped with a bypass position.
- Once a Firemen Service car has been placed in Firemen Service-Phase IF it will continue in Phase II operation regardless of the position of the lobby keyed switch. This feature may be utilized to restore other cars in the bank to normal service while the fire department continues to use the Firemen Service car or cars.
- If more than one floor selection is made, the car will stop at the nearest floor selection in the direction of travel.
If the doors open on heat and smoke, the simple removal of the finger should cause the doors to close.
If they fail to close automatically, press the “Door Close” button and manually assist the closing.
If the doors still fail to close, don the facepiece and evacuate the elevator. Proceed to the nearest stairway, which was determined by the procedure in item 14.
If conditions are normal on the selected floor, hold the “Door Open” button until the doors are fully opened. The door will remain open.
These 29 points explain how elevator use at high-rise fires can be made safer. Some departments prohibit their use, depending on height, configuration and design, fire condition, and state of fire cont rol. I have not attempted to set up a conflict with any department policy—only to increase understanding and awareness of safer elevator use when that option is available.