Stuck in an Elevator?

Stuck in an Elevator?

Here’s What To Do (And Not Do)

By Chad Talbert / Published November 2021

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Statistically speaking, when it comes to elevator entrapments the following is likely:

  • If an installed lift experiences an average of 0.4 mantraps per year, the probability of entrapment during any single trip is then 0.4/400,000 = 0.01 percent annually. If you travel 1600 times up and down to your office in a year, your chance of getting trapped in an elevator is thus 0.16. During a 40 years’ working career, this means roughly a six percent probability of getting into a mantrap in an office elevator. If you happen to live in a high-rise apartment building and use the apartment elevators, your chance of getting trapped may rise to about 12 percent during 40 years of lift usage.
  • There are approximately 900,000 elevators in the United States, and the odds of getting stuck in an elevator are 1 in every 100,000 elevator rides.

     While the chances seem slim, and vertical transportation is technically advanced to err on the side of safety and stop for precautionary measures, the number of elevator trips is large—18 billion trips in the U.S. annually, in fact. Unfortunately, accidents do happen.  Following are a few examples: 

  • A housekeeper was stuck in a private home’s elevator for three days. She was found dehydrated and taken to a hospital, but luckily, she survived.
  • Girl Scouts were stuck in a courthouse elevator for more than three hours. The girls were delivering stuffed animals to foster children when the incident occurred. They too survived.
  • Virginia politicians were stuck in an elevator on the way to an event. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney were trapped, along with nine other passengers. The Richmond fire department rescued them.
  • A Florida family was stuck in an elevator in Panama City. Fire rescue had to remove them through a ceiling hatch.

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     These are a handful of the many news stories you will find if you go looking for them. 

How your property should handle elevator entrapment 

     BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) Chicago lists effective response measures in the event of an elevator entrapment. The following actions should be taken by the person receiving the call:

  • Identify the stopped elevator cab number and the location of the entrapment. 
  • Immediately call the elevator service company and initiate building procedures for elevator entrapments. 
  • Obtain the names of the entrapped person(s) and company information. 
  • If able to (and per elevator company instruction), perform troubleshooting actions, such as remotely calling the cab to another floor.

     The organization also lists best practices and considerations for handling the incident (once the above information is obtained):

  • Talk to the entrapped persons throughout the entrapment (this can alleviate any anxiety), help keep them calm, and assure them that help is on the way. See a video example of a real call example of this from Kings III here:
  • Provide updates and information, such as elevator company estimated time for arrival. 
  • Ask if you can call their supervisor/family member/etc. and inform them of the situation (also shown in the video above).
  • If an entrapped person begins to experience any medical issue (i.e., shortness of breath), immediately call 911.
  • If certified to do so, give them pre-arrival medical instructions in the event that they need them. See our blog: What is an Advanced Emergency Medical Dispatch Certification?:
  • Dispatch engineering and/or security to the location of entrapped cab. Note that first responders can also communicate with entrapped persons.
  • Entrapped persons should never attempt to pry open doors and should only exit the cab if the cab is level and/or if security, engineering, or the elevator technician gives them the “OK” to do so.
  • Ideally, security should meet with all entrapped persons after exiting the cab. After the conclusion and meeting with the elevator service company, identify the root cause of the entrapment. Be sure that you’re being made aware of when an elevator entrapment occurs at your property. In a recent commercial real estate focus group with industry leaders at the BOMA international conference, we found attendees considered it a best practice to proactively follow up with every person trapped in an elevator. However, many had trouble doing so—a common complaint was being unaware of every entrapment that occurred on-site.

     Of course, that doesn’t mean that your entrapped rider’s elevator phobia will wait in the lobby. If they start to feel anxiety when entering an elevator, share these tips (ahead of time, or posted in the elevator).

How the passenger should handle elevator entrapment

  • Make the door open/close button your new best friend. Try this for at least five seconds. You would be surprised that this is what starts the elevator on its way. In fact, it’s not unusual to step into an elevator and forget to push the button for your desired floor—we’re living in an age when we can only handle so much information, and our attention spans aren’t what they used to be.
  • Don’t get mechanical. Chances are that unless you are certified in elevator engineering, you’re not going to successfully fix what’s broken. In fact, trying to be a hero could get you injured or worse. Do this instead—look for the elevator phone. It’s there (it’s the law!), usually located on the same panel as the buttons. 
    • If the elevator you’re in has a Kings III emergency communications system, your phone will connect you to a highly trained and certified emergency communications specialist who will help you take the next steps toward freedom. Kings III operators are on the job 24/7/365. Hopefully, your elevator’s choice of emergency communications is scheduled the same way.
  • Make yourself heard. It may not be the most technical advice, but yelling for help is a time-honored tradition. Draw attention to yourself. If there is an alarm button on the panel, push it generously, and don’t be shy. Most people pay attention to loud noises coming from an elevator shaft at least enough to notify the authorities.
  • Chill. Easier said than done, right?  But do it anyway. Try to remain calm. Panic will not open the elevator doors any faster, and it could do a number on your health, such as shortness of breath or worse. What to do: control your breath or at least take deep breaths, close your eyes if you can, and try to be a Zen mentor to anyone with you in the elevator. Remember that help is on the way. 

     Utilizing and disseminating these tips can make all the difference in a less-than-ideal situation. If you haven’t already, check out the benefits to having a Kings III Emergency Communications System installed in your elevator. Our specialists are on call to help any tenant or visitor who may be stuck in that very unlikely situation.

Chad Talbert

Southeast Regional Sales Director, Kings III Emergency Communications

     Chad Talbert is Southeast Regional Sales Director for Kings III Emergency Communications, overseeing relationships in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina. Kings III has provided complete, compliant, and affordable emergency phone solutions for elevators, poolsides, stairwells, and parking areas for more than three decades, monitoring more than 70,000 emergency phones across North America. Our all-inclusive solution includes equipment, installation, maintenance, and 24/7 monitoring at our very own emergency dispatch center for one low price. Our code compliance expertise, advanced technology which eliminates costly dedicated emergency phone lines, and digital recording and storing of all calls coupled with advanced emergency dispatcher training allow us to reduce risk, liability, and costs for customers. Get more details about Kings III’s all-inclusive emergency phone solution at