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Why can’t you use an elevator in a fire?
by Leigh Harris

It is common knowledge that you should not use an elevator in the case of a fire. But why? There are several very convincing reasons not to use an elevator if there is a fire.

It is inefficient!

Evacuating a lot of people from an office building with a lift is a multi-level challenge. If the elevator is filled up with people at the top floor, other people don’t know that and are still pressing the call elevator button on each floor. As the elevator moves down, it stops at every floor. It takes a lot of time to get just one elevator full of people to the ground floor.

Fire can short-circuit the elevator call button

Imagine you are in the lift and are heading down towards zero, but you have started on a floor above the fire. Sometimes the heat from the fire can cause the elevator’s call button on that floor to short-circuit, causing the lift to get stuck stopped on the floor with the fire. No one wants to be trapped on a floor with the fire.

Emergency Personnel

In the case that the fire is located above the 10th floor, the firefighters may need to use the elevator to move personnel and equipment up to a command post usually located about two levels below the fire. You don’t want to be taking away a valuable resource form the people that area equipped to deal with the emergency.

It’s one of the worst places to be in a fire

There are two major reasons that the elevator is hazardous because of the fire aside from the ones previously mentioned. Firstly, the elevator shaft mimics the natural shape of a chimney. It quickly fills with smoke. Smoke is not a harmless by-product of fire, it carries a huge amount of heat and contains gasses and fine particles that are harmful to humans.

Secondly, if the fire has spread and it ends up engulfing the elevator, firefighters may not be able to rescue those trapped inside. It is a very difficult scenario for firefighters, and it takes their attention and efforts away from their role in putting out the fire.

It is extremely dangerous to use a lift in the case of a fire. The emergency fire escape stairs are designed to that you do not have to take that risk. Stick to the stairs if you’re ever in an emergency scenario.