San Francisco High-Rise Introduces Elevators for Emergency Evacuation

Dec. 20, 2017

The elevators are equipped with occupant evacuation operation functionality.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Congress urged the National Institute of Standards and Technology to study tall building evacuations and develop solutions for high-rise buildings to undertake in the future. The research that resulted led to the creation of the first elevator system in the U.S. that can be used during emergencies for safe evacuation of high-rise buildings.

San Francisco’s 181 Fremont building has implemented 14 of 17 its elevators with Occupant Evacuation Operation (OEO) functionality from thyssenkrupp Elevator. Building occupants will be able to descend the 800-foot-high structure via elevator during emergencies, a major departure from conventional buildings.

“The number of high-rise buildings has tripled since 2000 as more and more people gravitate toward living or working in cities,” says Rich Hussey, CEO of thyssenkrupp Elevator’s Americas Business Unit. “The implementation of OEO-enabled elevators in U.S. high-rise buildings is a critically important step toward ensuring people’s safety in the event of an emergency, and it’s only the beginning. In the near future, hopefully many of the high-rise buildings being designed in major markets will incorporate OEO functionality for their elevators.”

The elevators enabled with OEO at 181 Fremont combine the use of stairwells and elevators to provide a faster and more efficient option for evacuation while reducing panic and confusion typically associated with emergencies. OEOs also better accommodate those challenged by age, health or restricted mobility.

OEOs have safeguards that protect against water, heat and smoke from entering the elevator lobby or hoistway, and they can run on backup power. When there is an emergency, alarm systems can activate OEO elevators to provide audible instructions to floor occupants.

Read also: Elevator Safety for Harsh Weather and Natural Disasters

Moreover, they can prioritize evacuation by specific zones or, in the case of a full evacuation, floors farthest from the discharge level have priority. Elevator cars can then communicate visually and audibly to passengers with their Variable Message System (VMS), and hall station screens communicate elevator status for those waiting in the hallway.

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