Why I Teach: Tony Tricarico

In this series, Fire Engineering Senior Editor Mary Jane Dittmar looks at the things that motivated and inspired instructors to present on their topics at FDIC International 2016. Segments will be posted on a regular basis up to and through the conference, April 18-23.

Tony Tricarico, Captain, Fire Department of New York

Elevator Emergencies

Thursday, April 21, 10:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Back in 1980, a firefighter from Engine 42, Joe Aquino, fell down an elevator shaft. He was only 24 years old and did indeed survive and came back to work. I worked with him, and he told us of his experience. He worked for several years; as he got older, the injuries became too painful, and he had to retire. His story is one of many of the firefighters who have fallen down elevator shafts. Most do not live to tell their story.

As time went on and I transferred to Ladder 19, also in the South Bronx, I did a lot of elevator work. Those old salts who taught me how these elevators worked really knew their stuff. In the 1980s, things worked a bit differently than they do today, and we were doing many, many elevator rescues every year. I use the term “rescue” loosely. These were people stuck in elevators, and we were constantly getting them out.

We also did quite a few recoveries. We also responded to many fires in Project buildings elevators as well as in smaller buildings with elevators.

The FDNY has very definitive procedures for elevator operations, and I still have witnessed members from my own company just miss getting a limb severed.

As I traveled around, I realized that not all the companies are responding to elevator incidents as often as others. We all know that the less you do something, the more you need to train on that skill set and that not everyone is as good as those doing it all the time. I also realized that there are many firefighters who have elevators in their districts who never even opened an elevator mechanical room. That is the reason I started teaching elevator operations; everyone needs to know the basics.

Although my class goes beyond this information, every firefighter should at least know how elevators work, the variations on the mechanics, and the options they have when called to an incident or an emergency.  

Firefighters who work on elevators tell me how informative my class is, and they also give me additional information to include in the class. Unfortunately, there is only so much time in the class, but I change and update the lecture every year with new information I glean from the professionals in the elevator business. I have had departments of students who attended my class invite me to conduct classes for them.

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