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Elevators during Fire.

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This is a Critical Question many people have to which we would like to explain below a few things that have to be considered.

Simplistically, For any able bodied person I would not recommend using an elevator during the fire especially when you have access to the Stairs or Emergency exits meant for use during fire Events. Generally these Exits have Protection from fire for Few Hours and are generally cut off from the building using a separate fire resistant door. However, this is difficult or may not be even possible for the Handicap People and hence special solutions are now brought in place or already in place and we will discuss them below.

Elevator during Fire should be avoided as there are too many things in an elevator that might just stop the elevator midway. For example, even burning of cable to the Call Button which is present on every floor in the hallway might give multiple calls or end up as short circuit in the communication cable giving an error Signal in the elevator which may lead the elevator to stop. Elevators are built in a way to stop whenever it senses any Problem. This System works great during the normal usage but not during fire.

There are precautions that are taken and facilities provided to help the passengers and the Fire Department to evacuate the elevator and also the building during Fire. We would like to state them as under

  1. Pressurization of the Elevator Shaft
  2. Elevator Shaft Walls with Fire Rating
  3. Fire Rated Doors for Elevators
  4. Fire Mans Elevator
  5. Fire Evacuation Elevator

Pressurization of the Elevator Shaft

In most of the Professional Projects, the Elevator shafts are Pressurized by using fresh air from the Outside of the building. This Pressurization creates positive pressure within the elevator shaft as compared to the Lift Lobby or sometime even the lobby is pressurized to keep all smoke from entering the pressurized zone. This also ensures Continuous fresh air to the Elevator shaft.

These Systems are also connected to back up Power Systems and multiple pressurization sources so as to have fail over system which switches to another pressurization source (Fan) in case the primary source fails.

The Pressurization is many a times also required by the Building code and hence the Builders and owners have no choice but to comply.

Elevator Shaft with Fire Rating

The Elevator Shaft forms the our cover of the Elevator system and encapsulates the Elevator system as a whole and there are barely any wires that go out of the elevator shaft except for in the machine room. This encapsulation helps to keep the elevator safe from the environment protecting it from the heat, dust, etc.

The Elevator shaft may be made up of Concrete or Party in Bricks and also in Steel for Structural Support. Building code in many places require that the lift shaft be made of material to have a fire resistance of two hours or a few hours depending upon the country and region.

This Provides the elevator with safety from fire for a certain amount of time and such time is sufficient to travel to the desired floor and come to a halt for the passengers to alight from the elevator safely.

With the Elevator Shaft Resisting fire there is only one Part that may bring the fire into the elevator shaft and those are the elevator doors which is explained below.

Fire Rated Doors for Elevator

Landing Doors for Elevators will form a weak link for the fire as the Elevator Shaft is Resisting Fire. This is where Fire Rated Doors are required to completely encapsulate the elevator.

Fire Rated Doors come with different time of Fire Rating but generally 1 hour or 2 Hour Fire Rated doors are used. Generally the Landing doors of the Elevator are fire rated. The car Doors may be made of the same Material with Similar design but are not fire Rated.

The Door Panels or Door Leaves are designed in a way so as to prevent the smoke from entering the elevator shaft.

Fire Mans Elevator / Fire Lift

Fire lifts are lifts that have certain features and components that prevent fire from entering the Elevator shaft and also to take the passengers to a certain floor when the Fire signal to the elevator is switched on.

The Fire lifts do have the Fire Rated Doors and also have Fire Switch/s placed on the lobby which when switched on, all the calls to the floors will be called and will move the elevator to a preprogrammed evacuation floor, Generally a Refugee floor or the Building lobby Floor from where the passengers can exit the building safely or can be rescued by the fire department. The lift on reaching the Floor opens the door and keeps it open. The Lift will now be out of service and can be used as a Fire Mans lift.

Fire Mans Lift is also a feature which the fireman can use to travel in the lift. Once the Fire Switch is On, the Fire Department Personnel may with a special key in the elevator cabin Car Operating Panel turn on this feature to make it a Fire Mans Lift. The Fire Mans Lift does not respond on any calls from the hall button and will only respond to the calls given in the Car Operating Panel.

When the Fireman Presses the floor buttons the elevator will move to the floor but will not open the doors, this prevents the fire from coming in. The Doors can be opened by the Fireman by pressing the door open button in the car operating Panel. This way the lift may be used for Evacuation during a fire.

Fire Evacuation Elevator

Fire Evacuation Elevator is similar a Fire Elevator or Fire Mans Elevator but is designed with the intention to be used in the event of fire to evacuate people by the Trained Fire Department Personnel.

The Fire Evacuation lift is generally placed in high Rises or Skyscrapers and is isolated from the other areas in the lobby through a Fire Resistance Lobby Door, Shaft Pressurization, Fire Retardant Cables with Low Smoke and has Separate Power Supply and generally opens in a lobby having fire exit stairs.

The Fire Evacuation lift will have hatch on the car top, a collapsible ladder to escape from the car top.


I think the best way to get out of the building in event of fire is to use the stairs. This is difficult for disable persons and hence Fire evacuation lift is a good Solution.

I also recommend using Fire Rated Doors for all the Elevator even if it is not mandatory for certain buildings as they can be of great help due the Fire Rated Doors.

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