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Developed and maintained
by the NFCC

Control measure

Move the lift car to a place of safety

Control measure knowledge

Personnel may need to move a lift car to a safe position, in relation to the landing floor, to allow people to get out of it.

Specialist advice may be required if dealing with a type of lift that personnel are unfamiliar with. It may be necessary to obtain details about a lift or lift keys from the responsible person, a lift engineer or the lift manufacturer. If access keys or relevant information cannot be obtained, personnel may need to await the arrival of a lift engineer before attempting a rescue, where there is threat to life.

Temporary lifts may be installed at construction sites; the responsible person or on-site staff may be able to provide further information about its operation.

The location of the lift car should be established, and contact made with the people stranded in it. Information should be gathered about how many people are in the lift car, along with relevant information such as health conditions and levels of distress.

The following content primarily relates to traction or cable driven lifts, which are the most common type of lifts found in buildings. However, some of the content, such as the hierarchy of actions, could apply to other types of lifts.

Two firefighters should be sent with appropriate communications equipment to the machine room. The instruction sheet and available equipment contained in the machine room, usually handwinding equipment and a brake release mechanism for traction or cable driven lifts, should be used to control the movement of the lift car up or down.

If the provided equipment is not available, the following hierarchy of actions should be considered:

  • Contact an on-site responsible person or member of staff to obtain the necessary equipment
  • Obtain the same or similar equipment from a nearby building
  • Use fire and rescue service equipment; this may need to be from own or a neighbouring service

Following a risk assessment, fire and rescue service equipment should only be used to extricate people from a lift car if:

  • The delay of a lift engineer could lead to:
    • Loss of life
    • Serious injury
    • People in the lift experiencing, or considered likely to experience, high levels of distress
    • Worsening of existing medical conditions if people remain in the lift car
  • It can be used to release the brake mechanism and handwind the lift and is suitable for these tasks
  • There are personnel available who are competent in its use

Under no circumstances should a lift car be allowed to travel uncontrolled by only using the brake release lever.

If any safety devices that are designed to prevent excessive lift car speed have engaged, and the lift is being held in the shaft, only a competent person, such as a lift engineer, should attempt to reinstate or move the lift.

Personnel should be made aware when a lift safety feature has been disengaged, as this may leave them prone to injury from contact with moving machinery or the electrical supply. When the power is isolated and the handwinding operation is in progress, personnel working in the vicinity should be briefed to expect machinery movement, without the warning of machine noise. They should remain at a safe distance from the machinery.

There may be incidents where the lift car is being held by the safety devices against the lift’s guide rails that are contained in the lift shaft. While the lift may be held in a stable position, this situation may lead to the cables or wire rope holding the lift becoming slack.

If slack cables are observed, it may indicate that the lift is being held by the safety devices, or that the lift car has come off its guide rails. Personnel should not increase the loading on the lift car by working on it; this has the potential to overload the safety factors of these devices, or to move the lift car, which may result in it dropping until the slack in the cables is taken up.

The people in the lift should be instructed not to attempt to open the doors, and to move to the rear of the lift car before the doors are opened. Their controlled exit, or assisted rescue, should be initiated once the lift car is stationary with the braking mechanism engaged, and when it is within 30cm of the landing level.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Establish the means to provide equipment to an incident so that it can be used to move lift cars

  • Ensure fire control rooms understand how to contact appropriate lift engineers

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Identify the location of the lift car and make contact with people inside it

  • Gather information about who is in the lift car, their health conditions and levels of distress

  • Request the assistance of the responsible person, lift engineer or lift manufacturer if required

  • Determine the best way to lower or raise the lift car to within 30cm of a landing level and to engage the brakes

  • Deploy two firefighters to the machine room, with communications and keys or entry codes if required

  • Follow the instructions and use equipment that is contained in the machine room to move the lift car

  • Use alternative equipment if required, obtained from the responsible person, another building or that of a fire and rescue service

  • Instruct the people in the lift car to stay away from the doors while the lift is opened

  • When safe to do so, initiate the controlled exit or assisted rescue of the people from the lift car