Recent editions of the model building codes began to include provisions for occupant evacuation elevators.1,2
They specify the physical requirements of the evacuation elevators
(e.g., shaft design, elevator lobby design, and protection of elevator
mechanical equipment), but not the information needs of the occupants as
they wait for the elevators.
In an emergency, people need to be provided with
information in order to make an informed decision. How will people know
whether they should stay and wait or use the stairs for evacuation?
Without adequate information, the people could experience waits that
they find unacceptable.
When using evacuation elevators, people will need to
wait for the elevator to arrive at their floor. In order to decide
whether to use the evacuation elevators or some other egress component,
building occupants need to know how much time each option will require.
When other floors are to be serviced before a particular floor, an
estimated time should be given.
When the estimated time is the maximum time, the
evacuation elevator will service the people that are waiting either
before or at the time that they are expecting. People will accept being
served early, but perceiving that their spot in line is being skipped is
If people are told that the evacuation elevator will
arrive at a certain time and it is not there at that time, they could
start to feel anxiety and lose trust in other information that they have
been provided. Thus, the upper bound of the expected arrival time would
eliminate this potential source of anxiety. As for how to present the
information, providing countdown information has been the preference for
people experiencing other situations that required them to wait.4,5,6
Source of Message
While being able to know how long they will be expected
to wait is valuable information, people should be able to trust that the
information that they are given. This can be accomplished by providing
information about the source of the message, i.e., from where (or whom)
the information originated.
If they do not trust the information that they are
provided, they may seek additional information. The source should be
someone or something that has a position of authority and/or is trusted
to be knowledgeable about what is going on (e.g., employer, building
management, or the fire department).
Along with knowing who is providing them with information, people should know what actions they need to undertake.7
In the case of evacuation elevators, people may need to know whether
they need to relocate to the elevator lobby and then wait there for the
elevator to arrive.
Additionally, people may wish to understand why they
have to do these actions. Knowing what is happening allows people to
make informed decisions. Rather than simply telling people that they
need to evacuate, occupants should be told as much information about the
event as is known. If possible, the event and location (e.g., a fire on
the eighth floor) should be given to the building population.
With this information, they can personalize the risk and
decide if they would be more comfortable waiting for the evacuation
elevator or using some other egress component - like the stairs.
Changes in Service
Finally, during a building evacuation, conditions can
change that could remove the evacuation elevators from service. If this
occurs, people should be informed that they should no longer wait and
instead be use an alternate means of egress.
In order for people to trust the information, they may
wish to know why they are now being asked to do something different. As
with other messages, a trusted source should deliver the message. Then,
the people should be told what has caused the change as well as what it
is that they need to do.
Based on what types of information people need, two
sample messages are provided. The specific details can be altered to
match the actual events.
This first sample message is an example of a message that could be provided to people waiting in an evacuation elevator lobby:
This is Building Management.
You need to evacuate the building because of a fire on the ninth floor.
Please wait ten minutes for the next evacuation elevator or use the nearest stair.
The first line of the message provides people with the
source of the message. The second line lets people know what they need
to do and why they need to do it. The third line is the expected waiting
time for the elevator.
If at a later point the evacuation elevators need to be taken out of service, a sample message could be:
This is Building Management.
The elevators are now out of service because of a mechanical issue.
Please evacuate the building using the nearest stair.
In this message, the first line provides the source of
the information and the last two lines identify why a change in action
is required and what the new action should be. The message lets people
know what they need to do, why they need to do it, and who is the source
of this information.
For additional recommendations on developing messages for evacuation elevators, please see the work of Kuligowski and Hoskins.8
International Building Code, International Code Council, Washington, DC, 2009.
NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2012.
Larson, R., "Perspectives on Queues: Social Justice and the Psychology of Queueing," Operations Research, Volume 35, Number 6, 1987, pp. 895-905.
Battelle Memorial Institute & Multisystems, I. "Customer
Preferences for Transit AITS," Federal Transit Administration Research
Report, Federal Transit Administration, Washington, DC, 2003.
Cham, L., Darido, G., Jackson, D., Laver, R., and Schneck, D.
"Real-time Bus Arrival Information Systems Return-on-Investment Study,"
Federal Transit Administration, Washington, DC, 2006.
Zhang, F., Shen, Q., and Clifton, K. "Examination of Traveler
Responses to Real-Time Information About Bus Arrivals Using Panel Data,"
Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, Volume 2082, 2008, pp. 107-115.
Mileti, D. and Sorensen, J., "Communication of Emergency Public
Warnings." ORNL-6609, Oak Ridge: National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN,
Kuligowski, E. D. and Hoskins, B. L. "Elevator Messaging Strategies," Fire Protection Research Foundation, Quincy, MA, 2011.
For questions concerning delivery of this e-Newsletter, please contact our Customer Service Department at (216) 931-9934 or magazine.sfpe.org.
Copyright 2013, Penton Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This eNewsletter is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, re-disseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of SFPE and Penton Media, Inc.
The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) is a professional society for fire protection engineering established in 1950 and incorporated as an independent organization in 1971. It is the professional society representing those practicing the field of fire protection engineering. The Society has over 5,000 members and 100+ chapters, including many student chapters worldwide.