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Firefighting lift


A firefighting lift is a lift that is often provided within a tall building, complex building or a building with deep basements. The purpose of a firefighting lift is to provide a facility to assist firefighters to move with more ease vertically through a building.

General considerations

A firefighting lift installation includes the lift car itself, the lift well and the lift machinery space, together with the lift control system and the lift communications system.

A firefighting lift, unlike a normal passenger lift, is designed to operate so long as is practicable when there is a fire in parts of the building beyond the confines of the firefighting shaft, as it is used to transport firefighters and their equipment to a floor of their choice.

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The lift can be used in normal times as a passenger lift by the occupants of the building but, in order to prevent the risk of the entrance being obstructed when the lift is required to go into the firefighting mode, it should not be used for moving refuse, nor for moving goods. In buildings provided with a single lift its use for the transport of goods should be avoided unless essential, lift lobbies should be kept clear, and when used for moving goods the doors should not be propped open to ensure that the lift remains at a particular level.

Firefighting lift cars should be provided with a means of external rescue of trapped firefighters in the lift car.

There have been several recorded occasions when water from a landing valve, hose lines, etc., has entered the lift well and caused malfunction of the installation when it reached electrical door interlocks, car controls, etc. It is therefore necessary to minimise both the effects of water on lift operations, and the probability of water entering the lift well in the first place.

A firefighting lift switch should be provided to enable the fire service to obtain immediate control of the firefighting lift(s) in a firefighting shaft.

The car controls of the firefighting lift should become active only after it has arrived at the fire service access level and the firefighting lift switch has been operated. Once the firefighting lift has arrived at the fire service access level, its doors should open and it should then operate as follows.

  • Fire personnel entering the lift car should be able to register a call to any selected landing in the building by sustained pressure on a car control until the car doors have fully closed
  • If a car control is released before the doors have fully closed, the doors should immediately reopen and the call should be cancelled
  • Once the lift is moving, it should be possible to register additional calls on the car controls. The lift should travel in the direction of the first call registered, and should stop at the first floor encountered for which a call is registered
  • The doors should remain closed unless they are operated by continuous pressure on the 'door open' control. It should not be possible to open the doors without sustained pressure on the control
  • Release of the 'door open' control before the doors are fully open should cause the doors to automatically re-close. This allows fire service personnel to observe the situation immediately outside the lift landing doors in the firefighting lobby
  • Once the doors are fully open they should remain open until a new call is registered at the car control station

Inherent benefits

  • Assist in the vertical transportation of firefighters and equipment within a building.

Inherent hazards

  • Possibility of personnel becoming trapped
  • Lift movement may increase ventilation to fire
  • Firefighting lifts should not be used as service lifts however can be used by people
  • Older 'fireman's lifts' may not have all the functionality/features of more recent firefighting lifts
  • Not always readily identifiable
  • Firefighting lifts may be used as part of the evacuation strategy

Further information

BS EN 81-72:2015 - Safety rules for the construction and installation of lifts