What to do if you’re stuck in an elevator

What to do if you’re stuck in an elevator

It may sound like a plot device straight from a rom-com or action movie, but it is very possible to get stuck in an elevator.
Now, in the movies, you may see the hero kick out the ceiling of the lift and climb the cable to the emergency exit; in real life, the procedure is a little bit different. 

What is an elevator?

An elevator, also referred to as a lift, is a vertically moving transport machine that moves people to different floors of a building.

Wikipedia explains: a lift is made to move people or freight between floors, levels, or decks of a building, vessel, or other structure. Elevators are typically powered by electric motors that drive traction cables and counterweight systems such as a hoist, although some pump hydraulic fluid to raise a cylindrical piston like a jack.

It is very possible that these mechanisms can malfunction. 

Here are a few things to do if you ever find yourself in this situation: 

Stay calm

Yes, you are way up a few storeys, just dangling there but it is very important that you try to remain calm. Panicking will just cloud your judgment. You need to think clearly so take a few deep breaths and look around you. Chances are that if you are in a South African elevator, there will be obligatory emergency signage. Read every notice that is on the elevator wall. 

Call the proper numbers

The signage inside the lift will have a toll-free number for you to call. If you are not alone in the lift, get everyone involved in looking for this number. Check whose cell phone has a signal.
Also, certain elevators have a built-in emergency phone feature, or there could be an emergency button somewhere on the number dial. There will be an operator button, usually with a speaker icon on it. Press it. 

There should be someone on the other side of the line who will report your situation to the proper people.

Be patient

Make peace with the fact that you will probably be there for some time. 

Even if maintenance is aware of the problem right away, it may take some time to fix the issue and open the doors, explains Preferred Elevators. Take the time to just relax. Call anyone who may be expecting you to inform them. If you are in there with other people, perhaps start a chat. Time flies when you’re socialising. 

Have a seat on the floor. don’t tire yourself out by standing throughout the whole episode. Tired means cranky. 

If you are in there alone, you can finally have that downtime to check Facebook, listen to music, or read the book you have yet to finish! Occupy yourself as much as possible until help arrives. Be alert when help does arrive though; you may need to follow a few instructions from the maintenance guys in order to help them get you out of there.

Do not try to pry the doors open yourself, it could cause serious injury.

Don’t Try to Escape Through the Elevator Hatch

No seriously. Movies are lying to you. Yes, there may be an actual hatch in your elevator, but so many bad things can happen if you crawl through here. 

For one, you can get electrocuted. There are wires and rods up there that could seriously cut, injure or shock you.

There is also the chance that if you do manage to crawl out through there, you can fall to your death. Imagine being stuck 13 storeys up? That’s a long way down.


Most modern elevators no longer have an escape hatch in the ceiling, and if they do, they’re bolted from the outside, explains If you somehow manage to get through the hatch, if the elevator suddenly operates, you’re also in much greater danger outside the elevator cabin than you were inside.

iER is a dedicated emergency response and disaster management network designed to respond to the emergency needs of all South Africans. A national network that connects you to a centralised 24-hour call centre that dispatches emergency personnel when you need them.
iER’s trained call centre staff are expertly trained to assist you through an emergency and dispatch the exact emergency response team you need – even if you need help getting out of an elevator.

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